The World Health Organization (WHO) revised its advice for COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday, classifying healthy kids and teenagers as a low priority group in getting vaccinated against the virus.
The WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) released new guidelines on which groups of people should prioritize receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. It lists three priority-use groups — high, medium and low — to advise when and if someone needs to get a shot.
The high priority group includes older adults, younger adults with significant comorbidities, people with immunocompromising conditions, pregnant people and frontline health workers.
SAGE recommends that this group receive a booster 6 or 12 months after the most recent dose, according to a press release.
The medium priority group includes healthy adults without comorbidities and children and adolescents with comorbidities. SAGE recommends that this group receive the initial vaccination series and the first booster, but does not “routinely” recommend additional boosters for this group, even though it is safe to do so.
The last categorization — the low priority group — includes healthy children and adolescents who are aged 6 months to 17 years old. SAGE said in a press release that while the vaccines are safe for this group, countries can choose whether to vaccinate the group based on “contextual factors,” like disease burden and cost effectiveness.
The press release notes that the public health impact of vaccinating children and adolescents is “comparatively much lower than the established benefits of traditional essential vaccines for children,” like rotavirus or measles. The release also states that vaccinating pregnant people can help protect infants from needing hospitalization if infected with COVID-19.
“Updated to reflect that much of the population is either vaccinated or previously infected with COVID-19, or both, the revised roadmap reemphasizes the importance of vaccinating those still at-risk of severe disease, mostly older adults and those with underlying conditions, including with additional boosters,” SAGE Chair Hanna Nohynek said in a statement.
“Countries should consider their specific context in deciding whether to continue vaccinating low risk groups, like healthy children and adolescents, while not compromising the routine vaccines that are so crucial for the health and well-being of this age group,” she added.