By Avellon Williams
HAVANA, CUBA — Cuba on Monday become the first country in the world to vaccinate children from the age of two against the COVID-19 virus, using home-grown jabs not recognized by the World Health Organization.
The island of 11.2 million people aims to vaccinate children before reopening schools. However, the government has announced schools will reopen gradually, in October and November, but only after all children have been vaccinated.
Having completed clinical trials on minors with its Abdala and Soberana vaccines, Cuba kicked off its vaccination campaign for children on Friday, starting with those 12 and older. On Monday, it started distributing jabs in the two (2) to eleven (11) age group in the Central Province of Cienfuegos.
Several other countries in the world are vaccinating children from the age of 12, and some are conducting trials in younger kids. Countries such as China, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela have announced they plan to vaccinate younger children, but Cuba is the first to do so.
The Cuban vaccines, the first developed in Latin America, have not undergone international, scientific peer review. UN agency UNICEF has called for schools worldwide to reopen as soon as possible, as “the long-term costs of closures are too high and hard to justify”.
Cuba has seen an explosion in coronavirus infections in recent months, putting pressure on its health system. Of the 5,700 coronavirus deaths recorded since the outbreak started, nearly half were in the last month alone, as were almost a third of all reported cases.