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WHO Europe says COVID-19 vaccine mandates should be 'last resort'

Agence France-Presse
WHO Europe says COVID-19 vaccine mandates should be 'last resort'
World Health Organisation (WHO) European director Hans Kluge, speaks during a joint press conference on the Danish handling of coronavirus in Eigtved's Pakhus, Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 27, 2020.
Ida Guldbaek Arentsen / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The World Health Organization (WHO) in Europe on Tuesday cautioned against making Covid vaccines mandatory, while urging better protection of children among whom cases are high.

Europe is battling a fierce surge in the pandemic, with the WHO registering 120,000 Covid-related deaths on the continent since November 23 when it warned of up to 500,000 more deaths by March 2022.

Regional director Hans Kluge said compulsory vaccines should be "an absolute last resort and only applicable when all other feasible options to improve vaccination uptake have been exhausted". 

Noting that mandates have increased vaccine uptake in some cases, Kluge said these were "context specific", and added that the effect mandates may have on "public confidence and public trust" must also be considered.

The regional health bloc also noted that the number of cases had increased "across all age groups, with the highest rates currently observed in the five to 14 years age group."

"It is not unusual today to see two to three times higher incidence among young children than in the average population," Kluge told a press conference.

"The health risks extend beyond the children themselves," Kluge added, noting that children risk passing the infection to parents and grandparents in the home.

Improved ventilation and the use of masks should be a standard at all primary schools as part of a safe learning environment, while avoiding school closures and remote learning, the regional director said.

"Vaccinating children should be discussed and considered nationally," Kluge added.

The WHO's European region comprises 53 countries and territories, and includes several in Central Asia.

The organisation also expressed concern about rising cases of the recently discovered Omicron variant of the virus, but stressed that the fight should still be focused on the currently dominant Delta variant.

"The problem now is Delta and however we succeed against Delta today is a win over Omicron tomorrow, before it eventually surges," Kluge said.

Meanwhile in Norway, where 29 cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed, health authorities warned that the new variant would likely add to the stress on health services to a "significant degree". 

"The variant will probably establish itself in Norway and become dominant in a matter of weeks," department director Line Vold at The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said in a statement.

The Nordic country's government is expected to announce new measures later Tuesday.

COVID-19 VACCINES

EUROPE

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 16, 2022 - 8:48am

Pharma giants Sanofi and GSK said on July 29, 2020, that they have agreed to supply Britain with up to 60 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The agreement covers a vaccine candidate developed by France's Sanofi in partnership with the UK's GSK and is subject to a "final contract."

This thread collects some of the major developments in the search for a vaccine to ease the new coronavirus pandemic. (Main photo by AFP/Joel Saget)

June 16, 2022 - 8:48am

A panel of experts convened by the US Food and Drug Administration unanimously recommends Covid-19 vaccines  for children under five, the final age group awaiting immunization in most countries.

Formal authorizations should follow soon, with the first shots in arms expected early next week, just over a year-and-a-half after the first Covid vaccines were greenlighted for the elderly in December 2020.

"This recommendation does fill a significant unmet need for a really ignored younger population," says Michael Nelson, a professor of medicine at the University of Virginia, one of the 21 experts asked to vote for the milestone meeting. — AFP

June 15, 2022 - 9:24am

A panel of US medical experts recommends the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged six through 17.

Formal authorization should soon follow, at which point families will have a second option against the coronavirus, as Pfizer's vaccine was given the greenlight for teens and younger children last year.

After weighing available data, 22 experts convened by the US Food and Drug Administration unanimously agreed that the known benefits outweighed the known risks when Moderna's vaccine was administered as two shots at the adult dose of 100 micrograms to those aged 12-17, and half of that for children 6-11. — AFP

June 8, 2022 - 10:16am

A panel of experts convened by the US drug regulator recommends the Novavax COVID-19 shot, a late runner in the fight against the virus that could nonetheless play a role in overcoming vaccine hesitancy.

Three vaccines are currently approved in the United States: Pfizer and Moderna, which are based on messenger RNA, and Johnson and Johnson, which recently received a recommendation against broad use becase of links to a serious form of clotting.

Experts voted 21 in favor of the Novavax vaccine, with none against, and one abstention, despite some concerns it may be linked to rare cases of heart inflammation. — AFP

June 4, 2022 - 6:04pm

The Food and Drug Administration voices concern about myocarditis being potentially linked to the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, just as experts are to weigh its use in the United States. 

The Novavax vaccine is already authorized in other countries, particularly in Europe. In the United States, an independent committee convened at the request of the FDA is to meet Tuesday to evaluate data from the clinical trials of Novavax and give its recommendation. 

In advance of that, the agency published a lengthy document on Friday analyzing these results, as it had done for the three other vaccines already authorized in the country. — AFP

April 14, 2022 - 9:19am

The head of US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer says a COVID-19 vaccine effective against multiple variants is possible before the end of 2022.

Chairman Albert Bourla says the firm was also working on producing a vaccine that could provide good protection for a whole year, meaning people would come back annually for boosters, as with influenza shots.

"I hope, clearly by autumn... that we could have a vaccine" that worked against not only the dominant Omicron but all known variants, he says. — AFP 

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