Cuba will begin vaccinating children as young as 2 against the coronavirus this week, making it the only country that has so far vaccinated children of that age.
The United States and many European countries currently allow Covid-19 vaccination for children over 12 years of age. US regulators could authorize a vaccine for children ages 5 to 12 later this year.
Chile has begun vaccinating children 6 years of age and older. China and the United Arab Emirates are now vaccinating children as young as 3 years old.
Cuba’s health regulator, the Center for State Control of Medicines and Health Products, approved pediatric vaccination in early September. Last week, the country began immunizing young people ages 13 to 17.
Coronavirus cases are skyrocketing in Cuba as the Delta variant spreads rapidly across the island. Cuba has recently reported an average of 70 new infections per day per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest rates in the Western Hemisphere.
Cuban children are being immunized with Soberana 2 and Soberana Plus, two vaccines developed in the country. Clinical trials in adults, and to some extent in children, have shown the combination to be more than 90 percent effective in protecting against the coronavirus, Cuban officials said. But the data from the trials have not been published in international peer-reviewed journals.
Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization, a division of the World Health Organization, asked Cuba in June to “publish the data in a transparent manner.”
“There are many things going for them, there is a need and they are using established technology,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said of the Cuban program. “But I am concerned about the level of regulatory oversight.”
The Cuban scientists said they have submitted articles to peer-reviewed journals and are awaiting publication. They highlighted that Soberana’s vaccines use a technology similar to that already used in Cuban vaccines against other diseases.
“This is not an RNA vaccine, without a history, that is given to children,” said Dr. Vicente Verez, the lead developer of the vaccines.
The first trials in children have shown only routine side effects and “a high degree of safety, which is the most important thing,” said Dr. José Moya, representative of the Pan American Health Organization in Cuba.
Schools in Cuba have been closed for most of the pandemic and the high cost of Internet access has made online learning impossible for most children. Frustrated officials and parents are anxious for children to return to school, but the reopening of classrooms has been repeatedly postponed.
So far, 56 percent of Cuba’s population has received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine and 37 percent are fully vaccinated. The country’s Health Ministry aims to vaccinate more than 90 percent of the population by December.
The pandemic has pushed Cuba’s acclaimed healthcare system to the limit. Shortages of drugs, medical oxygen and coronavirus testing have increased social tensions, prompting anti-government protests in July. Mexico sent oxygen supplies to Cuba last month and sent activists to the United States. two million syringes.
US economic sanctions imposed during the Trump administration I have slower vaccination efforts by making importing materials more complicated and expensive. Production of Soberana 2 was halted for weeks in the spring when supplies of a vital component dwindled, Dr. Verez said.