ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe’s health ministry has approved the use of China’s Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds, adding that the country aimed to achieve herd immunity by the end of December.
The ministry said in a statement that it had taken the decision after a recommendation from specialist paediatricians and was still considering whether to vaccinate younger children.
“All the provinces, secondary schools, colleges, universities and vaccination centres are hereby required to commence the vaccination campaign of this age group with immediate effect,” the minister said.
A growing number of countries have approved, or are considering approving, COVID-19 vaccinations for children and adolescents.
Neighboring South Africa, for example, is already administering shots to those aged 12 and over as it looks to ramp up the level of COVID-19 protection within its population.
In the US, White House has said vaccines for children plan fully operational in the coming week. The United States is rolling out Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 this week, but most of the 15 million shots being shipped initially are unlikely to be available before next week.
Millions of doses specifically formulated for children of that age group will start arriving at distribution centers over the next few days, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said, and the federal government has purchased enough supply for all eligible 28 million children.
Zimbabwe said the Sinovac shot would be the only vaccine eligible for use on teenagers. The country has predominately used Sinovac and another Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm, in its vaccination campaign so far.
The country’s medicines authority had only registered vaccines from China, Russia and India until it approved J&J’s vaccine for emergency use in July.
The health ministry said Zimbabwe was determined to reach herd immunity by the end of the year and that 38% of the targeted population had been vaccinated by the end of October.
The country has recorded 132,926 cases of COVID-19 and 4,675 deaths overall.
In other related news, Novavax COVID-19 vaccine obtained its first authorization; expects more within weeks, CEO said.
Novavax Inc expects regulators in India, the Philippines and elsewhere to make a decision on its COVID-19 vaccine within “weeks,” its chief executive said, after the shot on Monday received its first emergency use authorization (EUA) from Indonesia.
Novavax shares were up about 13% after the company also said it had filed an application for emergency use of the vaccine to Canada and the European Medicines Agency.