The World Health Organization’s vaccine experts have revised their global Covid-19 vaccine recommendations to include no need to vaccinate healthy children and young adults, who are considered a low priority.
According to the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Immunization Experts (SAGE), the updated roadmap is designed to prioritize Covid-19 vaccines for people at risk of death and severe illness.
It is being released to reflect the omicron phase of the pandemic and because countries have high population immunity levels due to vaccines and infection, the team announced following a recent meeting.
The new streamlined recommendations focus on high-, medium-, and low-risk groups.
SAGE recommends additional booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine six or 12 months after their last booster dose for high-priority groups such as the elderly, immunocompromised, people of all ages, frontline health workers and pregnant women.
For those at medium risk, the group recommends primary vaccinations and the first booster dose but not routine additional boosters. This group includes children and adolescents with health risks and healthy adults under the age of about 60.
Countries should consider vaccines for healthy children aged six months to 17 years based on factors such as disease burden and cost-effectiveness, the panel said.
“The public health impact of vaccinating healthy children and adolescents is relatively low compared to the established benefits of traditional essential vaccines for children—such as rotavirus, measles, and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines,” SAGE said in a press release.
The group said its vaccine guidance is based on current epidemiological conditions and could change if an epidemic develops.
This comes as countries make their own choices about vaccine recommendations based on vaccine availability and progress.
For example, US officials are weighing whether to give people at severe Covid-19 risk the chance to get another bipolar booster. The United Kingdom and Canada have already begun allowing certain individuals to receive another bipolar stimulant.
Experts also acknowledged competing health priorities when it comes to vaccines.
“As we all know, the Covid pandemic has taken a toll on immunization programs,” SAGE President Dr. Hanna Nohinek said Tuesday.
“It’s an enormous effort, and many countries have achieved high coverage, but it still requires efforts to reduce disparities, and we need to reach the highest priority groups, and we need to close the coverage gaps.”
Nohinek said there is a need to catch up on routine vaccinations that children have missed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He pointed to the increasing incidence of measles in all regions of the World Health Organization, saying that immunization programs around the world must be strengthened and restored. Measles is an indication that a known “tracer” or other vaccine-preventable disease is present in communities.
Polio continues to spread in many countries, so WHO’s vaccine advisors recommend improving immunization coverage and supplementing injectable polio vaccine when there is “persistent poliovirus circulation.”