In response to the many queries UNICEF has received about vaccinating children, we would like to share our response.
Cambodia is shoulder-to-shoulder with the best vaccination campaigns in the world and ahead of its year-end target to fully vaccinate 10 million adults. The comprehensive coverage of vaccines and consistent commitment to prevent transmission have paved the way for economic opening and recovery. In recent weeks, a promising step towards this recovery is underway in Cambodia, as children have begun to return to school in a safe and phased way.
We are aware of ongoing debates in many countries about making in-school attendance and participation in recreational group activities conditional on vaccination against COVID-19.
Countries that are considering vaccination of children need to note:
Evidence on COVID-19 vaccination among children, especially those younger than 12 years old, is still emerging.
Currently, only the Pfizer/BionTech vaccine has been approved by WHO for Emergency Use Listing for children aged 12-17, with no vaccine currently approved by WHO for children under 12 years old.
COVID-19 does not pose a high risk to children and younger adolescents. They are less likely than adults and older adolescents to become infected with COVID-19 when exposed, more likely to experience mild or no symptoms if infected, and they contribute less to the spread of the virus.
The indirect benefits of vaccinating children and adolescents to protect older, high-risk individuals are likely to be small.
Schools do not drive the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
Beyond the low risk of COVID-19 to children, evidence has shown the high risk posed to children by being kept out of school.
Children do not benefit effectively from distance learning and cannot be accessed equally by children without the proper digital tools.
Their development, mental health and social-emotional well-being are negatively affected by being out of school.
Prolonged school closures mean that many children have fallen behind, especially those from the poorest and deprived populations.
Safe school reopening is possible through risk mitigation measures, such as phased reopening, limiting class sizes to respect social distancing, strictly following the 3Do’s and Don’ts, and establishing information-sharing mechanisms with parents, students and teachers.
The Framework for School Reopening that has been issued by UNICEF, UNESCO, UNHCR, WFP and the World Bank provides practical and flexible advice for national and local governments and aid their efforts to safely return students to in-person learning.
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.