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58,531 children under 5 years to be vaccinated if vaccine gets approval

Advance money already paid by MoH to Pfizer

As per the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) projection, there are 58,531 children under five years who are the only unvaccinated group in Bhutan. Since these children are unvaccinated, the virus can continue to spread and then infect the older people who are at more risk. Therefore, vaccinating children under five is very important, say international experts.

Officiating Director of the Department of Public Health (DPH) under Ministry of Health (MoH), Rixin Jamtsho said the ministry is in contact with Pfizer company from the initial phase of COVID-19 procurement. MoH has paid advance money to Pfizer company for the purchase of pediatric Pfizer doses (2-4 years). MoH will start procuring the vaccines as soon as the regulatory authorities approve vaccination for children under five years.

As of now, no vaccines for children under five years are approved by any regulatory authority and there is very limited data on its efficacy globally. However, if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in the USA, the health ministry will seek recommendations from the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG). If NITAG recommends the use of COVID-19 vaccines for children under five years, MoH will seek EUA approval from the regulatory authorities (DRA), in Bhutan. 

He said if all population above 6 months could be vaccinated, the health ministry is expected to achieve about 95 percent vaccination with the primary series of COVID-19 vaccination.

As per the White House Briefing, next week, FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will consider whether to authorize and recommend the first COVID-19 vaccines for kids under the age of five by June 2022.

FDA is expected to make its decision on Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID shots for under age five soon after the experts review the data on 15 June.

The US is all set with an operational plan that will ensure that vaccines, if authorized by FDA and recommended by CDC are readily available for their youngest kids in their state.

As per the international experts, the science does show that the vaccine could be very beneficial to this age group. According to reports, Pfizer said that preliminary findings from their clinical trial had shown their three-dose COVID vaccine had been 80 percent effective in preventing symptomatic infection in a subset of participants who were six months to four-years-old.

Moderna’s request to authorize its vaccine for children under six has been pending since April. The vaccine is given in two doses four weeks apart, and the company said the vaccine was 51 percent effective against infection in children six months to two years and 37 percent effective against infection in children ages two through five.

As of now, Pfizer’s vaccine is the only one that is currently authorized for children five years and older.

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