Bahrain announced today that children will soon be eligible to receive doses of Sinopharm vaccine against COVID-19.
Children ages three to 11 can begin receiving the Chinese vaccine starting tomorrow. The decision follows an approval from the coronavirus task force in the Ministry of Health. The taskforce is urging children to receive the vaccine to “protect themselves, their families, and public health,” the official Bahrain News Agency reported.
COVID-19 cases are at a historic low in Bahrain. The country of around 1.7 million is averaging only 65 cases a day at present, according to data from Reuters. More than 65% of the population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the Oxford-based Our World in Data.
Bahrain is not the first country in the Gulf to approve Sinopharm for children. In August, the United Arab Emirates approved the vaccine for kids aged three to 17.
The World Health Organization currently does not advocate for vaccinating most children, in part because of their lesser risk of getting seriously sick.
“Children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, so unless they are part of a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, it is less urgent to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers,” read the WHO’s most recent update on the subject in July. “More evidence is needed on the use of the different COVID-19 vaccines in children to be able to make general recommendations on vaccinating children against COVID-19.”
There have been protests against COVID-19 vaccines for children in some areas around the world where it is required. The subject also spurred a political debate in Israel in August.
There also concerns about Sinopharm’s utility in general, including in Bahrain and the UAE. In June, a 48-year-old political prisoner in Bahrain died of COVID-19, despite being fully vaccinated with Sinopharm. The same month, Bahrain authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people originally inoculated with Sinopharm amid rising virus cases. In August, the UAE capital Abu Dhabi made booster shots mandatory for those who received Sinopharm. They did not institute this policy for recipients of other vaccines.
Sinopharm is also not recognized as a valid vaccine in many parts of the world. The vaccine does not have approval from the European Union, for example.
Bahraini authorities will also approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for five-to-11-year-olds “soon,” according to the Bahrain News Agency.