People with underlying health conditions are vaccinated against COVID-19 in Hà Nội's Thanh Xuân District on September 21. — VNA/VNS Photo Tuấn Anh
As the COVID-19 pandemic is still developing around the world, a Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reporter spoke with WHO Representative in Việt Nam Dr Kidong Park about the booster shots and pharmaceutical firms’ announcements that their COVID-19 vaccines are efficient and safe for kids.
What is the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s opinion on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots?
There are two key considerations guiding WHO’s position on booster doses. First is the scientific evidence.
WHO is carefully monitoring the rapidly evolving body of evidence regarding the need for booster doses.
There is currently no conclusive evidence stating that COVID-19 vaccine efficacy against severe disease and death wanes significantly over time.
There are several studies that indicate a decline in effectiveness against mild and moderate infection, however, prevention of severe disease and death is the most relevant outcome that the vaccines are intended to impact.
There is emerging evidence that the vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe disease and death.
WHO has not ruled out that boosters for some population groups may be warranted in the future.
WHO will continue to monitor any new evidence and will review its position as the data evolves.
The second is the moral and ethical implications.
Whilst huge inequities in vaccine rollout continue across the world, the priority should be on ensuring that all countries use limited vaccine supplies to provide high coverage of first and second doses, to priority populations such as health workers and frontline responders, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.
On August 4, 2021, WHO called for a time-limited moratorium on COVID-19 booster doses until the end of September with the intent to allow at least 10 per cent of every population of each country to be vaccinated.
WHO urges all countries to ensure that all vulnerable populations such as health workers and frontline responders, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions receive the primary course of vaccination, prior to providing boosters.
Many pharmaceutical brands have recently announced that their COVID-19 vaccines are efficient and safe for children aged 3 years old and above. What is WHO’s comment on this?
Efficacy and safety profiles of a vaccine in children might be different from those of adults. Injection volume for children might be different from those of adults.
Current evidence suggests that children in general are less likely to suffer from severe disease and death following COVID-19 infection or disease though children with underlying conditions are at increased risk of severe illness.
Because of this, COVID-19 vaccines are first developed for adult and priorities for vaccination are given to health care workers, frontline workers and high risk populations such as the elderly and people with co-morbidities.
After launching the vaccines for adults, the vaccine manufactures have continued research on vaccines for children.
To date, there is only one COVID-19 vaccine recommended for children from 12 – 18 years old by WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) and approved by the WHO Emergency Use Listing which is the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
We are aware that other vaccine manufacturers are also conducting research for COVID-19 vaccines for children.
Once data is available, the national regulatory authorities will evaluate and consider for emergency use authorisation. WHO will also update its recommendation and Emergency Use Listing.
With a population of nearly 100 million, Việt Nam planned to fully vaccinate at least 50 per cent of the adult population (18 years old and above) within 2021 and 70 per cent of the entire population by the end of the first quarter of 2022.
To do so, it needs about 150 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines while until now, it has received nearly 50 million doses.
Việt Nam has so far administered 38 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and about 7.5 million people have now received two shots. — VNS