China’s kids may be next in line for COVID vaccines

AP — If China is to meet its tentative goal of vaccinating 80 per cent of its population against the coronavirus by the end of the year, tens of millions of children may have to start rolling up their sleeves.

Regulators took the first step last week by approving the use of the country’s Sinovac vaccine for children aged three to 17, though no announcement has been made about when the shots will start.

Children have been largely spared the worst of the pandemic, becoming infected less easily than adults and generally showing less severe symptoms when they do catch the virus.

But experts said children can still transmit the virus to others and some note that if countries are going to achieve herd immunity through their vaccination campaigns, inoculating children should be part of the plan.

“Vaccinating children is an important step forward,” said a virologist at the University of Hong Kong’s medical school Jin Dong-yan.

A woman and child wearing period costumes pass by a bus providing COVID-19 vaccination outside the Forbidden City in Beijing. PHOTO: AP

Doing so, however, may be easier said than done for reasons ranging from vaccine hesitancy to vaccine availability.

Even in countries with enough vaccines to go around, some governments are having problems convincing adults that the shots are safe and necessary despite studies demonstrating they are. Such concerns can be amplified when dealing with society’s youngest.

There’s also the issue of approval. Few regulators around the world have evaluated the safety of COVID-19 shots in kids, with the majority of shots approved only for adults right now. But the approvals are starting. The United States, Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong are all allowing the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children as young as 12.

The Sinovac announcement could open the way for the vaccine, already in use in dozens of countries to be given to children across the world.