In a stunning move, the island of Cuba has become the first country in the world to officially start vaccinating toddlers aged 12 and below for COVID-19. What’s even more interesting is that they are also using their own locally-developed vaccines called Abdala and Soberana. Both of which have yet to be recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), but were approved for emergency use by Cuban health authorities.
The Caribbean island with a population of 11.2 million says that it plans to inoculate all its children before reopening schools. The campaign to vaccinate children started last Friday with teens 12 and over, with those in the 2-11 age group in the central province of Cienfuegos getting their shots on Monday.
The Abdala vaccine is a three-dose shot, while the Soberana vaccine only requires two doses. The two are the first to be given the green light out of Cuba’s five coronavirus vaccine candidates. Abdala, which is also in use in Venezuela, employs the same recombinant subunit protein vaccine delivery as China’s Anhui Zhifei – a vaccine that MyEG plans to bring to Malaysia.
Meanwhile back home, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has still not decided on whether to vaccinate those under 12 years old, citing no approval for the move anywhere. “Once there is enough data to support that it is safe to give out to children, then we will take that to the vaccination committee for consideration and for us to decide,” said Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin last week.
Registration for the national inoculation programme opened for teens 12 and above back in July, but reports of heart inflammation risks for teens caused the government to pause its plans to use the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 4, months after it received approval for use on adolescents by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency. Shortly afterwards, they announced they were going through with the plan to vaccinate teens. The immunisation programme for adolescents will start next week in Sarawak, according to Khairy.