Covid: WHO urges Wales to delay giving children jabs
Wales has been urged to delay giving children a Covid jab and instead donate the vaccines to low-income countries.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said on Tuesday it was likely the Welsh government would want to roll out jabs for children later this year if licences were granted.
But the World Health Organization (WHO) said children were very low risk unless they have underlying health conditions.
The Welsh government said it is waiting for advice from the UK advisory group.
Pfizer has had its jab authorised for 12 to 15-year-olds in the US, and it is applying to do the same in the UK.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said enough Pfizer vaccine had been bought to vaccinate all children over 12 and clinical studies showed the vaccine was safe and effective among 12 to 18-year-olds.
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The WHO said it would ultimately be “wanting to vaccinate all people in our populations” and added it was “good news” vaccines were safe to use for children.
“Vaccine supply is procured on a UK-wide basis and the UK is one of the largest donors in the in the Covax initiative which is helping to ensure a fair distribution of Covid vaccines to other countries.”
“But we’re saying at the moment they’re a very low-risk group, unless they have underlying diseases or they’re vulnerable,” WHO spokesperson Dr Margaret Harris told BBC Radio Wales.
“There is such a shortage of supply in the world.
“We are 190 million doses short of what we predicted for June – so we’re saying, just wait… if you’ve got such surplus that you can now go to that group, look to donating doses, so that you can stop the pandemic that’s just raging in so many countries.”
“The most self-interested thing you could do at the moment is ensure that the whole world is getting vaccinated.
“We have got many countries where even the healthcare workers have not been vaccinated, and we’re now seeing in a country like India, where the vaccination had only reached one to 2% of people, what that means.
“So we really, really need to step up the vaccination around the world.”
It comes as cases of an Indian variant of Covid-19 more than doubled in under a week in Wales as Public Health Wales (PHW) urged people “not to become complacent”.
More than two million people have received their first Covid vaccine in Wales.
A children’s trial for the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab was launched in February, with 300 volunteers taking part.
‘It’s morally wrong’
Prof Andrew Pollard, who helped develop the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus that offering children in some richer countries a vaccine before high-risk people in poorer ones was “morally wrong”.
Plaid MP Dwyfor Meirionnydd Liz Saville Roberts, who sits on the group, told BBC Radio Wales she agreed with Prof Pollard.
‘Hug each other’
“I do think it’s morally wrong,” she said.
“It’s being driven in many cases and many countries in the world by political considerations.
“Politicians like to say that they are vaccinating people, they like to say that families will be able to hug each other… but it is morally wrong when there’s nine doses for every adult in Britain compared to countries where there’s nothing…
“Then there’s the practical issue… nobody’s family is safe while the virus can still lurk in corners of the world – nobody’s family is safe until everyone’s family is safe.”
But speaking to ITV Wales’ Sharp End programme on Monday, Mr Drakeford said offering young people the vaccine would “make schools even safer than they are now”.
He said it might allow “us to lift some of the other restrictions that we have, wearing masks in classrooms all the time for example, which inevitably makes that learning experience less comfortable than it would otherwise be”.
The Welsh government said they were “awaiting advice from the JCVI regarding vaccination of children of secondary school age”.
“Vaccine supply is procured on a UK-wide basis and the UK is one of the largest donors in the in the Covax initiative which is helping to ensure a fair distribution of Covid vaccines to other countries,” a spokesman added.
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