Cuba begins vaccinating children as young as 2

Sitting on her mother’s lap, 2-year-old Lucía looked at the illustrations in her book while around her several children watched the doctors in white coats and nurses with thermometers in amazement

HAVANA -- Sitting on her mother’s lap, 2-year-old Lucía looked at the illustrations in her book while around her several children watched the doctors in white coats and nurses with thermometers in amazement. In an adjoining room, Danielito, also 2, sniffled while getting a shot as a clown tried to distract him.

“Our country would not put (infants) even at a minimal risk if the vaccines were not proven save and highly effective when put into children,” Aurolis Otaño, director of the Vedado Polyclinic University, told The Associated Press in a vaccination room.

Otaño said the circulation of the Delta variant produced an increase in infections among the youngest, so Cuba’s scientific community decided to “take the vaccine to clinical trial” and it was approved for children.

The Polyclinic expects to vaccinate about 300 children between 2 and 5. Those between 5 and 10 are receiving their first shot at their schools.

Lucía’s mother, Denisse González, watched the children in the vaccination room while waiting the hour that her daughter had to be under observation after being vaccinated.

“I was very doubtful and worried at first, really, but I informed myself,” she said.

In previous weeks, the vaccination of Cubans between 11 and 18 began. The plan includes two doses of Soberana 02 vaccine and one of Soberana Plus, as was done with adults.

Cuba faces a persistent COVID-19 outbreak that almost collapsed its health-care system. Provinces such as Matanzas, Ciego de Ávila and Cienfuegos received support from doctors from other parts of the country and even from international donors.

In addition to the Soberanas, Cuba has developed another national vaccine, Abdala. According to Cuba’s Ministry of Health, 776,125 positive cases of COVID-19 have been registered with 6,601 deaths.

In June, Chinese regulators approved the use of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines for children ages 3 to 17. The United States and many European countries currently allow COVID-19 vaccinations for children 12 and older.

Children have largely escaped the worst of the pandemic and show less severe symptoms when they contract the virus. But experts say children can pass the virus on to others and suffer negative consequences.

“As more adults receive their COVID-19 vaccines, children, who are not yet eligible for vaccines in most countries, account for a higher percentage of hospitalizations and even deaths,” said Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization. “We must be clear: children and young people also face significant risks.”

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