South Africa should consider vaccinating adolescents against the coronavirus according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), reports Bloomberg.
“Given the high prevalence of HIV among adolescents in the country, efforts should be considered to vaccinate those with underlying conditions that put them at increased risk of severe COVID-19,” the NICD said in a report. Giving shots to those aged 15 to 18 “might need to be prioritised to close the immunity gap”, said the organisation.
People under 19 accounted for about 12% of SA's confirmed COVID cases at the end of August, while those with underlying conditions, such as an HIV infection or diabetes, are more prone to hospitalisation and death when they contract the virus.
With the worldʼs highest number of HIV cases, the country has an estimated 8.2m people or 13.7% of the population infected with the virus that causes Aids, according to the national statistics agency.
According to Bloomberg, in the 18 months up until 28 August, 50 children with COVID-19 who died in hospital also had an HIV infection: diabetes afflicted 24 of those who died and hypertension 21.
Children with HIV and other diseases compromising their immune systems “should be prioritised now for these vaccines” as they are among the groups “we need to protect as much as possible,” said Angelique Coetzee, chairperson of the SA Medical Association.
So far SA has fully vaccinated 7.7m of its almost 40m adults, but is yet to roll out the shots to those under 18. Pfizer and BioNTech's inoculation has, however, been approved for use by 12 to 18-year-olds by the national health regulator.
Sinovac Biotech has started a COVID-19 vaccine trial in SA in people between the ages of six months and 17 years as part of a global study.
NICD data show SA cases in children rose 73% during the third wave, with hospital admissions jumping 43%. Still, no increase in deaths in this age group was shown. That contrasts with reports from the US that indicate a 10-fold increase in paediatric cases, admissions and deaths since the emergence of the Delta variant, the NICD said.
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