The Brazilian Health Ministry announced on Wednesday that it will begin rolling out Covid vaccines to children aged 5 to 11, answering a public demand to include one of the last demographics not yet reached by the national vaccination program.
Children will receive two pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine — equivalent to one-third of the adult dose — the only immunizer to have obtained emergency use authorization. Doses will be separated by an interval of eight weeks. But parents won’t be forced to take their children to receive inoculation.
While Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said “children aged 5 to 11 are [Brazil’s] future” and must be taken care of, the Jair Bolsonaro administration has been against vaccinating minors.
Last year, Mr. Queiroga himself spread misleading information about the safety of teenage vaccination. The government also resisted including children in its immunization program even after rollouts were greenlit by regulators in mid-December. At the time, the Health Minister said “it wasn’t an urgent matter.”
Moreover, President Jair Bolsonaro went against regulators during a Facebook Live broadcast, saying he wanted to “reveal the names of the people” who approved the vaccination of children.
The government initially intended to force parents to obtain medical prescriptions before vaccinating their children, but a public consultation process showed that the general public is strongly opposed to the idea.
Some states, such as São Paulo, claim to have already distributed syringes and needles necessary for the rollout of vaccines, and the Health Ministry said local administrations should receive their first pediatric doses by January 14. Mr. Queiroga, however, told journalists that future purchases of vaccines for children will hinge on parents’ adherence to immunization.
Over 30 countries have already begun vaccinating children aged 5 to 11. In the U.S., regulators have recently authorized booster shots for teenagers over 12. So far, Brazil has distributed over 400 million coronavirus vaccine doses.