In response to the many queries UNICEF has received about vaccinating children, we would like to share our response.
UNICEF follows the advice of the strategic advisory group of experts on immunization, known as SAGE, who base their guidance on the latest scientific evidence. We urge Government policy-makers to have regard for the SAGE guidance when deciding on national policies.
SAGE has prioritized priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination based on their risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death and taking into account the impact or disruptions to health systems, education, or other essential services. The latest guidance makes clear that children who are immunosuppressed should be prioritized for vaccination alongside other highest priority groups, and children with certain health conditions and comorbidities may also benefit from prioritization. However, for healthy children and adolescents, the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is very low and vaccinating them against COVID-19 is the lowest priority.
To reiterate, UNICEF follows the science and the advice of global experts who continue to monitor the latest evidence and we advise policy makers to do the same.
Further, COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on children’s lives, primarily because of the huge disruption it has caused to essential health services, education, protection services, and family livelihoods. In crisis conditions there are always difficult decisions that force difficult trade-offs, but it is imperative that all COVID-19 recovery efforts put children at the centre. That means prioritizing investment in the essential, proven services that children need right now:
- Fully vaccinate and protect all high risk and priority groups against COVID-19, including the essential health, social care and education workers on whom children rely.
- Restore full access to primary health care, including routine childhood immunization, nutrition services and child and adolescent mental health
- Keep schools open, support teachers and parents, and provide every child continuous access to learning
- Protect and reinforce child protection systems
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.