No evidence to suggest healthy children need booster doses: WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday said there is "no evidence" that healthy children and adolescents need booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Addressing a press conference, WHO's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said that studies are still needed to ascertain who needs booster jabs. However, she accepted that there seems to be some waning of vaccine immunity against the Omicron variant over time.
Why does this story matter?
Swaminathan's statement comes as many countries have started inoculating children with booster doses. These countries include the United States, Israel, Germany, and Hungary. Her remarks will also help countries formulate their vaccination policies, especially the booster jabs. The global health body maintained that it would soon come up with suggestions to administer booster doses.
Experts to meet this week to discuss booster jabs
Swaminathan did not completely dismiss the need for booster jabs to certain vulnerable populations. She said a group of experts would meet later this week to discuss how countries should consider administering booster doses to populations. "The aim is to protect the most vulnerable, to protect those at the highest risk of severe disease and death," she added.
Who should get COVID-19 booster doses on priority?
As per Swaminathan, elderly populations and immuno-compromised people with underlying conditions are the ones who should be prioritized for booster doses. Healthcare workers would also need to be inoculated with booster jabs, she said.
Not certain how many doses people will need: WHO
Meanwhile, Dr. Michael Ryan—executive director of the WHO's health emergencies program—said the health agency has not yet figured out how often or how many doses of COVID-19 vaccines people will ultimately need. While healthy people will only require two vaccine doses, elderly and immunocompromised people may require three to four doses for protection, he said.
Which countries are administering booster jabs to children?
Earlier this month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as a "booster" dose for children aged 12-15 years. Israel is also offering booster doses to children as young as 12 years. Last week, Germany also recommended booster jabs for children aged 12-17 years. Further, Hungary has approved booster jabs for adolescents.