Unvaccinated children suffering COVID impact, Americas health agency warns

A child looks on as students return to school in Philadelphia.
REUTERS/Hannah Beier

By Anthony Boadle

As more adults get their COVID-19 vaccines, children who are not yet eligible for vaccination in most countries are representing a larger percentage of hospitalizations and even deaths, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned on Wednesday.

Nine months in to this year, infections among children and adolescents in the Americas have surpassed 1.9 million cases, and they face significant health risks, the regional branch of the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

Experts say the pandemic has triggered the worst educational crisis ever seen in the Americas due to the absence of in-person schooling.

The COVID pandemic has also disrupted sexual and reproductive health services across more than half of the region’s countries, helping to fuel one of the largest jumps in teenage pregnancy seen in a decade, PAHO said.

Lockdowns and economic disruptions have increased the risk of domestic violence and for many kids, their homes may not be a safe place, said PAHO Director Carissa Etienne in a briefing.

“Our kids have missed more school days than children in any other region. Each day that children go without in-person schooling, the higher the likelihood they drop out and never return to school,” she said.

So far, the only vaccine approved by the WHO for adolescents is the Pfizer Inc shot, while Moderna Inc has asked for emergency use approval of its vaccine for 12-15-year-olds, according to PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa.


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