Stockholm, Sweden | XINHUA | Unlike many other countries that have started to vaccinate people from the age of 12, the Swedish Public Health Agency announced on Tuesday that it has decided to vaccinate the 16-17 year olds, not below, against COVID-19.
The agency said that all children aged 16 and 17 will be offered vaccination against COVID-19, once those aged 18 and older have been vaccinated.
“We do not think that there is enough support for a risk-benefit balance to give younger children vaccines,” Swedish Television SVT quoted Public Health Agency’s Director General Johan Carlson as saying.
“Vaccination of children is sensitive and should not be done if you do not see that it has great benefit for the individual child,” he said in a press conference.
The European Medicines Agency recommended nearly a month ago that children should be vaccinated from the age of 12. The United States, Canada and Israel have also decided to vaccinate children as young as 12, SVT reported.
“The main argument for vaccination from the age of 16 is the benefit to the individual. Although young people are less likely than older to suffer from severe COVID-19, there is a risk for acute serious illness and for long-term problems,” Carlson said.
He said between 150 and 170 individuals aged 16 or 17 had so far received hospital care due to COVID-19 infection.
Carlson said that other factors were also considered before deciding that vaccine will be offered to the 16-to-17-year olds.
“We know that restrictions and measures such as distance education have affected many young people negatively. During the pandemic, the mental health of the group as a whole has deteriorated and feelings of anxiety increased,” he said.
“This is also an aspect that we have taken into account because health is about so much more than just protection against disease,” Carlson said.
However, in exceptional circumstances, Swedish children aged 12 may also be vaccinated. Instead of a mass vaccination program, only children suffering from certain medical conditions specified on a list compiled by the Swedish Paediatric Society will be vaccinated.
Among the conditions listed are severe asthma requiring intensive care in the last 24 months, severe lung disease, certain immune-deficiency conditions, Down syndrome and severe obesity.