Mexican health authorities Tuesday announced vaccination against COVID-19 will reach children aged 5 to 11 in a country ranking 5th worldwide in the number of deaths due to this malady after the United States, Brazil, India, and Russia.
Deputy Health Minister of Health Hugo López-Gatell explained the Government had signed a contract with Pfizer for the purchase of 8 million pediatric doses. The first batches are due to arrive June 24.
There are around 15.4 million people in that age group and still no information as to when supply will be made available to all of them. López-Gatell admitted vaccination will be uneven across the country.
Mexico had so far vaccinated people between 12 and 17 years old with a chronic disease, on the grounds that there was not enough scientific evidence regarding the effect of the vaccine on children. In October 2021, a judge ordered all teenagers to be vaccinated, but the Mexican Government has challenged the ruling.
Specialists questioned the Government's decision not to vaccinate children, a policy opposite that of many countries, including Latin America.
Malaquías López, a spokesperson for the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) COVID-19 Committee said children should be vaccinated not only to protect them but also to break the circulation of the virus and accused the government of not understanding this argument.
It is impossible to reach 90% of people with immunity, which is what we need if they are not vaccinated. Otherwise, the virus can continue to replicate and new strains may even emerge that would wipe out all the accumulated immunity, he said.
Health Minister Jorge Alcocer argues that children have a marvelous immune system and that the application of the vaccine could hinder the learning of their defense system, due to which Alcocer said he would not vaccinate his grandchildren.
Parents had been pushing for the Government to review its stance. Pfizer-BioNtech's drug is the only emergency vaccine authorized in Mexico for children. López-Gatell argued that for each antigen that is applied to a child, other adults in need are left unprotected. He added that there is no scientific consensus at this time on the usefulness of vaccines in children and adolescents with no comorbidities.