We came across this post on Twitter that claims that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is no longer recommending COVID vaccines for healthy kids and teens.
The post relies on an article that was published on 31 March 2023, on the website called Zero Hedge. Zero Hedge, a blog that publishes predominantly financial content, has also been cited for publishing right-leaning political content.
According to Zero Hedge, WHO has reversed its COVID policy and is no longer advocating for healthy children and teens aged 6 months – 17 years to receive the COVID vaccine.
WHO’s statement on COVID vaccines for children and adolescents
In a news release dated 28 March 2023, WHO stated that its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) has revised its guidance for administrating COVID vaccines.
SAGE updated its COVID vaccine recommendations after considering that “much of the population is either vaccinated or previously infected with COVID-19 or both”, rendering high population level immunity.
These updated suggestions, among others, consider whether it’s economical to administer COVID vaccines to healthy children and adolescents, measured against other health interventions.
SAGE Chair Dr Hanna Nohynek highlighted that “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.”
Revised vaccine guidelines
The revised COVID vaccine guidelines still stress the importance of vaccinating those at high risk of death and serious disease from COVID infections, such as older adults with underlying conditions. On the other hand, healthy children and adolescents are regarded to be at low risk.
SAGE has organised vaccination use into 3 priority groups, namely high, medium, and low. These groups are differentiated by factors such as the risk of death and critical illness from COVID, vaccine performance, and whether it is cost-efficient to vaccinate.
Children and adolescents with no immunocompromising conditions and comorbidities fall under the low-priority group.
While the COVID vaccine and booster doses are safe for healthy children and adolescents, considering the low burden of disease, SAGE encouraged countries to tailor vaccination of this group according to contextual factors such as cost-effectiveness or other health priorities.
SAGE also added that the “public health impact of vaccinating healthy children and adolescents is comparatively much lower than the established benefits of traditional essential vaccines for children – such as the rotavirus, measles, and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines – and of COVID-19 vaccines for high and medium priority groups “.
Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed that WHO’s updated COVID vaccination guidelines are still in line with Singapore’s present approach for the medically vulnerable to receive a booster in 2023 and children aged 5 years and above to receive minimum protection.
A MOH spokesman stated that while local data reveals a low risk of serious COVID-19 infection in younger children, COVID-19 infections in unvaccinated children resulted in a higher necessity for hospitalisation compared to vaccinated children.
Overall, the latest update from WHO does not prove that COVID vaccines have always been unsafe for children or adolescents, as insinuated by the Zero Hedge article. This misrepresents WHO’s update.
WHO did not recommend against children and adolescents receiving the COVID vaccine. Rather, its present stance is more nuanced and indicates that governments should channel their resources according to local circumstances and focus on the more vulnerable.
Hence, we rate the claim, that WHO is no longer recommending COVID vaccines for healthy kids and teens, as false.