The government will start vaccinating children as young as 5 against coronavirus if the World Health Organization (WHO) gives go-ahead in this regard.
“Certainly, we have a desire to inoculate children aged 5 and above. We’ll take the decision in this regard after getting opinion of the World Health Organization (WHO),” Prof Dr ABM Khurshid Alam, director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told the Daily Sun.
Talking to the Daily Sun, some health experts said if there is no problem of side effects or it is effective, children aged 5 and above can also be inoculated against Covid-19 to bring the maximum number of country’s people under immunisation coverage, which will be helpful to combat the deadly pathogen.
Referring to recent steps taken by some countries about inoculating children as young as 5, they said the government can also write to the WHO seeking its opinions in this regard.
Bangladesh is currently vaccinating common people aged above 18 and school students aged 12-17.
Asked whether the government has any plan to inoculate children aged 5 and above, Prof Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general of the DGHS, said no decision has yet been taken in this regard.
However, sources at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said the government has a plan to bring maximum people of the country under immunisation coverage.
Different countries, including the US, the UAE and China, have already approved vaccination for children aged 5 and above to fight against the coronavirus pandemic while the European Union is also evaluating an application to approve Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children.
Children aged 3 and above will start receiving coronavirus vaccine in China where 76 percent of the population has already been fully vaccinated and the authorities are maintaining a zero-tolerance policy towards outbreaks, said recent media reports.
According to a report, the US Food and Drug Administration on October 29 authorised the emergency use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 5 through 11 years of age.
“The vaccine (Pfizer) was found to be 90.7 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 in children 5 through 11. The vaccine’s safety was studied in approximately 3,100 children aged 5 through 11 who received the vaccine and no serious side effects have been detected in the ongoing study,” it added.
Later, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also approved the emergency use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 5-11.
A report published on October 18 said the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has started evaluating an application to extend the use of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, to children aged 5 to 11.
The government on November 1 started inoculating schoolchildren aged 12-17.
Primarily, the school students are being inoculated in eight centres in the capital and another one in Manikganj and the number of centres will be increased gradually in Dhaka city and other parts of the country.
"Under the directive of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, we’ve decided to inoculate 30 million students aged between 12 and 17," Health Minister Zahid Maleque told the inaugural function of the vaccination campaign for students aged 12-17 at Ideal School and College at Motijheel in the city on November 1.
Health ministry sources said the government is working to set up vaccination centres for schoolchildren in 22 districts across the country.
Talking to reporters after the cabinet meeting at the Secretariat, Zahid Maleque in September said Bangladesh sent a letter to the WHO for approval to inoculate students aged above 12.
After returning from the WHO office in Geneva in October, the minister said he had a meeting with its director general when the WHO chief said Bangladesh can go ahead with the plan to vaccinate children if it wants.