In an effort to get children back into classrooms, the Cuban government has begun to vaccinate children as young as two years old for COVID-19, according to the island’s state media.
While other countries have stated that children will be vaccinated in the future, Cuba is thought to be the first to administer the Covid-19 vaccine to toddlers. It announced in September that its homegrown vaccines were safe for young children to use.
On the island, most in-person classes have been canceled due to the pandemic. Instead of going to school, children spend hours each day watching educational programming on television. In the communist-run country, home internet is still a rarity.
In Havana, Cuba, on Tuesday, August 24, 2021, a girl receives a dose of the Cuban-made Soberana-02 COVID-19 vaccine.
Rather than relying on other countries for medications, Cuba has largely focused on developing its own vaccines. Local scientists claim the vaccines made in Cuba are safe and effective, but have provided little data to outside observers so far. The government has stated that its vaccines will be submitted to the WHO for approval.
According to the Cuban Ministry of Health, over four million people have been fully vaccinated to date. The government has not stated how many children have been vaccinated, but it has stated that a pediatric vaccination campaign began this week in the province of Cienfuegos, where the healthcare system has been severely strained, resulting in a sharp increase in new cases and deaths.
Before reopening international borders in mid-November, the Cuban government said it hoped to vaccinate over 90% of the country’s 11.2 million people.
Initially, the government stated that it would concentrate on vaccinating health-care workers, the elderly, and those living in the most severely affected areas. However, following a spike in infections among children thought to be caused by the Delta variant, the government announced that vaccination of young children would be prioritized.
“With the rise in positive cases of Covid-19 in children, its necessary that the family protects itself more and so we are protecting our children and adolescents,” said the island’s chief epidemiologist Dr. Francisco Duran Garcia.
To date, the coronavirus has claimed the lives of 6,056 Cubans, but officials recently admitted that the death toll could be much higher.