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This week, the Ministry of Health (Minsa) approved the vaccination protocol against COVID-19 for children and adolescents between 12 and 17 years old, thereby expanding the immunization schedule to the entire target population.

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The health portfolio plans to start vaccination of this group in November, after lowering the vaccination age for young people over 18 years old a few days ago.

So far, in the country more than 30 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been applied and more than 13 million people have received the complete scheme, which represents 47% of the target population (over 12 years old), according to the immunization plan.

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The decision to lower the age responds to epidemiological and health reasons and the availability of vaccines that the country currently has, according to the health portfolio. The vaccine to be used will be that of Pfizer / BioNTech, which is the only one that has authorization from the General Directorate of Medicines, Supplies and Drugs (Digemid) to be applied to this age group.

Right now, there is a gap of adults who do not yet have a second dose of the vaccine. In total, according to the Minsa, swith more than a million people.

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“In that million we still have a population aged 50 years and over, with comorbidities, and additionally continue to vaccinate this group of 18 to 20 years to be ready to advance with children and adolescents from 12 to 17 years”, explained the head of Immunizations of the Minsa, Gabriela Jiménez Quinteros, to the Andean Agency.

A teenager receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Cecilia Rivadeneira Foundation in Quito, Ecuador, on July 21, 2021. (RODRIGO BUENDIA / AFP).
A teenager receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Cecilia Rivadeneira Foundation in Quito, Ecuador, on July 21, 2021. (RODRIGO BUENDIA / AFP).

Asked by El Comercio about whether the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recommends lowering the vaccination age or first closing gaps to reach unvaccinated adults, the deputy director of the World Health Organization office in the region, Jarbas Barbosa , stated:

“The strategy that the WHO / PAHO has recommended from the beginning is to vaccinate the most vulnerable first, because that is the first task of the vaccine: saving lives. Then, [se debe] start with the elderly, with adults with chronic diseases, health professionals and from there to the adults [sanos]”, he pointed out at a press conference.

Jarbas Barbosa is the deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization.  (AFP).
Jarbas Barbosa is the deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization. (AFP).

According to Barbosa, if the prioritization of groups in greater danger is not followed, there is a risk of overlooking some older adults or people with chronic diseases, for example.

“The vaccination of adolescents is not a priority, because according to the data they are not the most vulnerable groups in terms of serious cases and deaths from COVID-19. We already have vaccines approved by the WHO for use in adolescents, 12 to 17 years old, which are those of Pfizer and Moderna. Countries that have completed vaccination of all priority groups can begin vaccinating adolescents, first with those who have a disease that may put them at higher risk for severe COVID-19 and then all adolescents. It is a decision of each country. It is important to maintain priorities: only after vaccinating all older adults and all adults, there yes [se debe] vaccinate adolescents “, he warns.

According to Unique National Repository of Health Information of the Minsa, of the 4.4 million people over 60 years of age -which are those who are at the highest risk of severe COVID-19-, 84.1% have one dose and 79.7% both. Although there are regions with more than 90% coverage in this age group, others such as Ucayali and Loreto have 66% coverage.

At another time, when consulted by this newspaper about the entity’s forecasts regarding the control of COVID-19 in the region, the director of PAHO, Carissa Etienne, affirmed “that the course of the pandemic in the Americas remains highly uncertain “Therefore, it is essential that the implementation of public health measures (use of masks, social distance, ventilation, etc.) continue to be respected and that vaccination coverage is equitable.

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