BRASILIA (REUTERS) - Brazil's Health Ministry said on Wednesday (Jan 5) that it will go ahead with the voluntary vaccination of children aged five to 11 years old against Covid-19 and dropped plans to require a doctor's prescription.
While vaccination will not be mandatory, state governments have the final word on public health decisions and could require that children be vaccinated to be able to attend school.
"Children have unfortunately died of Covid-19, not many, but every child's life is important," Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said at a news conference.
Brazil has ordered 20 million doses of a vaccine for children developed by Pfizer and vaccinations will begin later this month, starting with the oldest and children with prior medical conditions, he added.
Health experts told a public hearing on Tuesday that requiring a written doctor's prescription would discourage vaccinations.
Some said it was a hurdle devised by the government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a vaccine sceptic.
Mr Bolsonaro has opposed the vaccination of children, even though Brazil's health regulator Anvisa last month authorised the use of Pfizer's paediatric vaccine.
So far, 20 of Brazil's 26 states and the federal district have decided that they will not ask for a doctor's prescription and the National Council of State Health Secretaries advised that this requirement not be made.
The governors want to start vaccinating children before schools resume classes in late January.
The first 3.5 million Pfizer doses for children will arrive before the end of January, Mr Queiroga said.
This comes as Brazil reported 27,267 new Covid-19 cases and 129 deaths, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
The South American country has now registered 22,351,104 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 619,513, according to ministry data.