China to extend mass vaccination program to minors aged 12-17
A number of provinces, regions and municipalities across China have announced they will phase in COVID-19 vaccination for minors aged between 12 and 17.
Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province plans to administer vaccines to middle and high school students between the ages of 12 and 17 from July, according to the provincial center for disease control and prevention.
Before vaccination, a minor's legal guardian will be provided with all relevant information to ensure his or her child is informed, consenting and voluntarily vaccinated. The guardian should remain with their child during vaccination, said the center.
Heilongjiang is expected to carry out mass vaccination for minors in stages and by age, from senior students to those in junior grades. The province's initial plan is to complete the two-dose process in September.
South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region will first vaccinate teens aged between 15 and 17 in July, and start vaccinating those aged 12 to 14 in August. The region's 12-17 age group is expected to complete vaccinations by the end of October this year, said the region's health authorities on Tuesday.
Most students from primary, junior high and senior high schools, secondary vocational schools and technical schools are included in the targeted age groups. Parents or guardians are required to read consent forms thoroughly and sign their informed consent before vaccination, and accompany their children on-site while they are being vaccinated.
Consultation hotlines will be opened to answer questions related to vaccination. Minors aged between 12 and 17 and senior citizens over 60 will be the region's focus in its vaccination strategy in the second half of this year, said the region's health commission.
The city of Jingzhou in central China's Hubei Province will focus on vaccinating minors aged between 12 and 17 and people over 60 from August, according to the city's health authorities.
Guangzhou, the capital of south China's Guangdong Province, will research and draw up vaccination plans for the city's residents aged 12 to 17, said the city's health commission on Friday.
Zheng Huizhen, the chief expert of disease control at the Guangdong Preventive Medicine Association, said that as China builds its immunity barrier, its order of inoculation starts with adults of working age, then moves to senior citizens, and finally to minors.
"Though children and adolescents present with mild or asymptomatic clinical manifestations of the novel coronavirus, there still remains a risk of severe development among minors compared with adults. Children and adolescents could play an important role in the spread of the virus in communities, so it is important to conduct research into the safety and efficacy of vaccines among the young population," said Gao Qiang, general manager of Sinovac Life Sciences Co., Ltd.
China's mass vaccination campaign currently mainly targets adults aged over 18, with nearly 1.44 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered across the country as of Friday.
In June, China approved the emergency use of its domestic inactivated COVID-19 vaccines on minors aged from 3 to 17.