The World Health Organization’s chief scientist announced there is no data suggesting booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccines are necessary for healthy children and adolescents.
Questions about booster shot administration come as the omicron variant spreads globally and coincides with questions about the possible end of the pandemic.
Speaking at a media briefing on Jan. 17, WHO Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said “there’s no evidence right now” that warrants the supplemental shots for those in good health under the age of 18.
She said indications that vaccine immunity may wane overtime against the Omicron variant did not necessitate the booster shot for all age groups.
“The aim is to protect the most vulnerable, to protect those at highest risk of severe disease and dying, those are our elderly population, immunocompromised with underlying conditions and also health care workers,” Swaminathan said.
Two weeks earlier, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention approved the third dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for minors between the age of 12 to 17. Germany and Hungary have both formally recommended the same age group get the extra dose. Israel took similar action, offering booster shots to those over the age of 12.
The European Medicine Agency warned earlier this month that too many COVID-19 vaccines administered in too short a timeframe could damage the immune system.
“It is important that there is a good discussion around the choice of the composition of the vaccine to make sure that we have a strategy that is not just reactive…and try to come up with an approach that will be suitable in order to prevent a future variant,” said Marco Cavaleri, EMA’s biological health threats and vaccines strategy, in a statement.
Swaminathan said the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group Experts on Immunization will hold a meeting later this week to review how it recommends countries distribute booster shots.
The executive director of the WHO’s Emergencies Progam Michael Ryan said this week that the public health emergency would end when the maximum vaccination rate of the world’s population coincides with low levels of the virus.
“We won’t end the virus this year. We may never end this virus. Pandemic viruses end up becoming part of the ecosystem,” Ryan said while speaking at the World Economic Forum’s online Davos Agenda 2022 summit on Jan. 18.
Data from the organization indicated that “36 of its 194 member countries have vaccinated less than 10 percent of population and 88 have inoculated under 40 percent,” per CNBCTV18.
“What we can end is the public health emergency this year, but the issue is about deaths, about hospitalizations and about the destruction of social, economic and political systems that have caused the tragedy,” Ryan added. “The virus is just a vehicle.”
The WHO declared COVID-19 a “public health emergency of international concern” on Jan. 30, 2020. It upgraded the outbreak of the virus to a pandemic on March 11, 2020.