Coronavirus: Vaccinate those at risk worldwide before children, says WHO

Filipino health workers and people with comorbidities queue to receive coronavirus vaccine shots in Paranaque, on May 4, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (AFP) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday (May 7) urged governments to refrain from vaccinating children against coronavirus until the elderly and at-risk worldwide have received the vaccine.

The WHO plea comes after Canada authorised the use of Pfizer vaccine on children, with other rich nations set to follow suit.

"The priority really needs to be getting vaccine to all countries in the world for the highest priority groups before we start advancing to groups that have much lower risk of disease," said Dr Kate O'Brien, director of the WHO's vaccines and immunisation department.

Canada on Wednesday approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in children aged 12 years and up, becoming the first nation to do so.

Canada chief medical adviser Supriya Sharma told a news conference that Britain and the European Union are expected to soon follow suit, after reviewing the same testing results submitted by the manufacturer.

The United States is also set to authorise the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 12-15 year olds as early as next week, according to media reports.

While such authorisations will open the way for millions more people to receive the vaccine in rich nations, such moves add to WHO concern over the contrast to the vaccine roll-out in Africa and elsewhere.

"When we have supply that is adequately distributed in an equitable way, so that every country has secured the implementation of vaccine for those highest priority groups, we very much welcome the use of vaccine," said O' Brien.

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