Story at a glance
- Cuba has vaccinated more than 95 percent of toddlers as young as 2 years old.
- Cuba has vaccinated about 93 percent of its total population, one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
- The progress could be because Cuba has developed its own COVID-19 vaccine, eliminating the need for it to compete for vaccines from other countries.
Cuba has become the world leader in vaccinating its population against COVID-19, hitting a new milestone in vaccinating its youngest residents.
The island is the only country that has approved its vaccines for use on toddlers as young as 2 years old, and now more than 95 percent of 2-to-18-year-olds have been fully vaccinated, according to The Guardian.
Our World Data estimates that Cuba has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with about 93 percent of its population vaccinated as of Jan. 31. The country began vaccinating children as young as 2 years old in September 2021, making it the only country to immunize children that young at the time.
What’s allowed Cuba to vaccinate so many citizens is through the development of its very own COVID-19 vaccine, eliminating the need to compete for vaccines like other nations.
A study published in the BMJ last year found that Cuba’s Abdala COVID-19 vaccine is 92 percent efficacious after three doses. The island has three other vaccine candidates in the pipeline, too, one of which is the Soberana 2; Cuba’s health agency says has a 91 percent effective rate when combined with a booster vaccine called Soberana Plus.
Cuba began rolling out two of its most promising vaccine candidates despite neither having been approved by the country’s regulatory body for emergency use.
Cuba has been joined by Chile, which also began vaccinating children between the ages of 3 and 5-years-old in December.
Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, told The Guardian that vaccinating young children “is essential,” especially here in the U.S. given the high number of children hospitalized with the highly transmissible omicron variant. A strong public health communication plan is also essential.
“The vaccine ecosystem is fragile,” said Hotez. “If you get it wrong, especially with someone’s child, it can have spillover effects and derail other vaccine programs.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics reported more than 3.5 million child cases of COVID-19 in January 2022, while over 11.4 million children have tested positive for the virus since the onset of the pandemic. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as of Jan. 21, about 29 percent of 5 to 11-year-olds have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while about 20 percent have been fully vaccinated.
The U.S. could begin making headway on vaccinating children under the age of 5, as the Food & Drug Administration is expected to expand the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 6 months to 5 years by the end of February, according to NBC News.
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