COVID-19: Children in MENA countries are increasingly eligible for vaccines

With the success of vaccination campaigns for adults, the median age of coronavirus patients is falling.

 Itamar, 5-years-old, receives his first coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination, after the country approved vaccinations for children aged 5-11, in Tel Aviv, Israel November 22, 2021.  (photo credit: REUTERS/CORINNA KERN)
Itamar, 5-years-old, receives his first coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination, after the country approved vaccinations for children aged 5-11, in Tel Aviv, Israel November 22, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/CORINNA KERN)

The US Food and Drug Administration authorized on October 29 emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is over 90% effective at preventing infection in children in this age group, and the benefits of vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks. 

After the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine won US approval for young children, a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa region and around the world followed suit.

With the steady ramping up of successful COVID-19 vaccination campaigns for adults and higher-risk populations, the median age of COVID patients is falling. 

In recent weeks, American children under age 18, who are 22.2% of the population, represented more than 25% of new COVID cases. Their overrepresentation is something new. Since the pandemic started, they have accounted for only 16.9% of COVID-19 cases. The reason why they are now a higher proportion of COVID patients isn’t just that rates among adults are declining. Cases among American children have risen by 32% compared to just two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, in Israel, more than 50% of recent new cases were among children.

 Eli Stern prepares to get his shot at a Humber River Hospital vaccination clinic after Canada approved Pfizer's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada November 25, 2021.  (credit: REUTERS/CARLOS OSORIO) Eli Stern prepares to get his shot at a Humber River Hospital vaccination clinic after Canada approved Pfizer's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada November 25, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/CARLOS OSORIO)

Thus, health officials are increasingly turning attention to the need to get younger people vaccinated.

Bahrain approved the Sinopharm vaccine for children aged 3-11 from October 27. On November 2, it approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use for children aged 5-11.

Cyprus will adopt the European Medicines Agency’s approval, announced today, of COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5-11. The vaccines are expected to arrive in the country around December 20.

In Iran, a license was issued on November 11 to conduct clinical studies of the locally made COVIRAN Barekat vaccine on children. In the first phase, 60 volunteers ages 12-18 will be vaccinated. If that is successful, children ages 6-12 will also be enrolled in the study.

The Iraqi Health Ministry approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on November 1 for children aged 12 years and up. The ministry said priority would be given to children in high-risk groups.

Israel this week began vaccinating children ages 5-11. In August, it began offering the COVID-19 booster to children from age 12.

Oman approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination for children ages 5 to 12 in late October. Immunocompromised children ages 12 and up are now eligible to receive a second dose of the vaccine.

Qatar will receive its first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 years in January, Dr. Mohammad Janahi announced on Qatar TV on November 17. Janahi is Sidra Medicine’s chief of pediatric infectious disease and medical director of outpatient clinics. He said that children in this age group now account for 63% of COVID-19 transmissions in the country. Qatar is offering a booster shot to anyone, regardless of age, who received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least six months ago.

The Saudi Food and Drug Authority on November 3 approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 5-11 years.

In the United Arab Emirates, the Health Ministry in late October approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on an emergency basis for children aged 5-11 years. The vaccine was approved on an emergency basis for children as young as 12 in May. In August, following a trial involving 900 children in Abu Dhabi, the Sinopharm vaccine received Health Ministry approval for children ages 3-17. 

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 8:20 pm Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday.