Starting this week and within the past days Cuba has become the first country in the world to begin a mass COVID-19 vaccination program for all children. Though the campaign was initiated earlier in September, CNN reporting on Monday observed the large scale campaign in action for children two and up.
“During a single day at a policlínico in Havana, where CNN and other media were invited to film the vaccinations, more than 230 children ages 3 to 5 were vaccinated, the clinic’s administrator said,” the report observed.
What’s more is that to be considered “fully vaccinated”, Cubans – including children – must receive three shots, which is also something unique globally (Israel is the only other country to officially push a third “booster” shot for its citizens to be deemed fully vaccinated).
A recent summer spike in infections across Cuba with the rapid spread of the Delta variant caused authorities to delay the opening of the school year in September. For now, state TV channels provide school lessons to children watching from their homes, also as many Cubans can’t access internet service.
The last months have seen an alarming rise in Covid infections in children; however, it remans unclear and undisclosed how many of these cases are severe or have resulted in hospitalization, as CNN explains further:
So far during the pandemic at least 117,500 minors have been diagnosed with Covid in Cuba, according to official statistics. The government has not said how many children have died in Cuba during the pandemic. But since the beginning of August, 10 minors, children and infants have been listed as having died in daily press briefings given by the Health Ministry.
Currently Havana authorities are administering three Cuban-manufactured vaccines that state health regulators gave “emergency approval” for, but have struggled to produce enough for the island’s 11+ million population.
— Albert Schram (@albertschram) September 19, 2021
The Cuban government has at the same time come under criticism by global health officials, including at the WHO, for “excessive secrecy” regarding its homegrown vaccine development and program.
Vaccinating children as young as two remains hugely controversial among populations across the globe, particularly in the United States, where the FDA has yet to approve Covid vaccines for people under 12-years old. This is given that the majority of children are asymptomatic, or merely experience mild illness, according to the general consensus among doctors and health authorities.
It’s further exceptional that Cuba would also administer a third shot to children, given most vaccines approved in other countries require a maximum of two shots.