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Fear and lack of information about Cuban vaccines for minors

Vaccination of children from two to 17 years old will begin in the third week of October. Families demand more information

For mothers and fathers, the decision of whether or not to vaccinate their children against covid-19 with the Cuban doses of Abdala, Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus is causing doubts among Nicaraguan families because the vaccines have not yet been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). The generalized answer of those consulted by Confidencial is to wait until their use is authorized. 

Luisa Aleman is the mother of a three-year-old boy and an eleven-year-old girl. She fears that the vaccines may generate an adverse reaction in her children and she hesitates about taking them to be vaccinated because there is not enough information about the Cuban serums and, precisely, because they do not have the backing of WHO. “I will wait until it is approved because the truth is that there is not much information about this vaccine and it would be a risk to vaccinate them,” she said. 

Scarce information on Cuban vaccines for minors in Nicaragua

The Ministry of Health (Minsa) announced on October 2 that it will vaccinate, on a voluntary basis, 2,102,366 children and adolescents. The inoculation is scheduled to begin the third week of October and the vaccination posts will be informed as the Cuban biologics enter the country. So far, this is the only information known about the immunization of minors. The Government has not referred to the safety of the vaccines despite the fact that it is one of the main concerns of parents.

“Catalina” will not vaccinate her 10 year old daughter and her 17 year old adolescent, “nobody knows if they are safe and we should not play around with children’s health”, she argued. “Fatima”, mother of a four year old girl, points out that there is no certainty about the efficacy of these vaccines in children in Cuba. “The only ones who talk about this one are the Cuban media themselves and this does not give credibility. I feel that they come to the country to test its efficacy or effects on us,” she said. 

A physician consulted by Confidencial, who asked for his name to be omitted for security reasons, recommended parents to “wait for more studies” before making the decision of whether or not to inoculate their children. Another medical source also considers that “there is a lack of international studies to support it” because the data available so far are “cuban” and “speak wonders”, he said. 

On July 9, Abdala became the first vaccine to be licensed by Cuba’s Center for State Control of Medicines, Equipment and Medical Devices (CECMED); and on August 20, Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus also obtained the emergency permit.

Abdala works based on the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein, its most protruding segment. It requires three doses spaced at 14-day intervals and is 92% effective against symptomatic disease, say its developers.

Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus respond to the chemical conjugation of the RBD protein of the virus with the tetanus toxoid protein, a molecular construction that allows increasing immunogenicity and inducing immunological memory, explain their manufacturers, who at the same time assure that the effectiveness is 91.2% through a scheme of two doses of Soberana 02 and one of Soberana Plus at 28-day intervals.

“Karla”, mother of two teenagers, one aged 12 and the other 14, recognizes that Cuba has health professionals capable of creating a good vaccine. However, she is debating whether to vaccinate her daughters or not because the serums have not been approved by the WHO, but at the same time, she fears that by not immunizing them they will be unprotected, and therefore, they could become infected in the future and develop a strong coronavirus symptomatology.

On the other hand “Javiera” and her husband have decided not to vaccinate their six-year-old daughter. “If none of these organizations – WHO and PAHO – approve its application, much less in minors, we as parents cannot place our trust in vaccinating our children” she said. 

So far, the only vaccine authorized by WHO to inoculate children over 12 years of age against covid-19 is Pfizer’s, while the other vaccines are still under review. This Thursday, Pfizer applied for emergency use authorization for children aged 5 to 11 years from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

What is happening in Vietnam, Venezuela and Iran?

Last August, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said that children from 3 years of age would be inoculated, without detailing with which serum. However, specialists have come out against the possibility of immunizing them with Cuban biologicals.

Huníades Urbina, secretary of the National Academy of Medicine and former president of the Venezuelan Society of Pediatrics, told Voz de América at the beginning of September that Abdala and Soberana 02 “are not vaccines” but “prototypes in experimentation” which “have not received any type of recognition by any serious international entity other than by their own Ministry”. 

Iran also does not rule out using Sovereign 02 to inoculate children, but so far it has not done so. Meanwhile, Vietnam maintains the immunization of its youngest population in 2022 as part of its plan, according to different media reports.

More than a dozen countries in the world are already vaccinating their adolescent population, and others such as China, United Arab Emirates, Israel, inoculate children as young as three years old, explains a BBC report.

Nicaragua would become the second country after Cuba to inoculate children against covid-19 from the age of two.

Nicaragua moves away from herd immunity 

Countries that are making progress in protecting their child populations have already covered a large part of the segments of their adult population that are most at risk of falling ill and dying from the pandemic. Epidemiologist Alfonso Rosales explains, based on the evidence on the impact of covid-19, that the priority population to be vaccinated is those over 50 years of age and, subsequently, other groups are immunized, until reaching children.

“Nicaragua has vaccinated less than 6% of its population, how can they think of starting to vaccinate the child population? The risk of transmission in the child population is much lower than in the adult population. The risk of hospitalization is much lower than in the adult population,” he said. 

He also explained that vaccinating a population group that is not as vulnerable, without first fully covering the most exposed, has a negative impact on reaching collective immunity. “From an epidemiological point of view, you have to fight the virus in the areas where it is moving the most: in adults, If you take away or spread your efforts to include populations that are not the most vulnerable, you take away effort to cover vulnerable populations”, he said. 

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff

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