Chile is one of the few countries in Latin America (and the world) that is vaccinating minors from the age of six against COVID-19. The Chilean child inoculation program has generally been deployed in schools, where last week the deadline for administering the first dose from the Chinese laboratory Sinovac ended. At the beginning of the school campaign, the Undersecretary of Health Paula Daza said, in reference to the second, that Primary Health Care (PHC) will coordinate with schools to immunize children, and those who cannot do it in facilities educational, may later in health center.
At the Providencia School in Santiago, a score of health workers from the health center and the Ministry of Health have been in charge of vaccinating hundreds of schoolchildren who presented the consent of their families, since the process is voluntary.RELATED
“We set aside two mornings to vaccinate the students and, in addition to COVID, we took the opportunity to put other doses of the national program, such as the papilloma vaccine,” says Rose Marie Castex, psychologist and head of Health at the educational center. He explains that the families were satisfied with the possibility of vaccinating their children and the percentage of inoculated students reached 70% of a total of 1,100 students.
“I was struck by the enthusiasm of the children, they were happy with their vaccination card and well informed because the teachers did a previous work in the classes,” he says. In his opinion, “the school is the appropriate space to carry out mass vaccination in children under 12 years of age because they feel that they are within their daily environment, in their class, with their teachers, and that helps to contain them.”
The Ministry of Health expects to vaccinate 1.5 million children between now and December. To date, the 60% of the first doses in children under 12 years of age. In the next few weeks they will start with the second. Adolescents from 12 to 17 years vaccinated with the full regimen reach 69%.
The planning of this process is carried out by municipal health services. Primary health care prepares the program for the educational centers in its neighborhoods. The schools contact the families of the students and request their authorization. “So far the process has worked very well, there is good acceptance and safety alerts for the vaccine have not been raised,” says Juan Pablo Torres Torretti, pediatric infectious disease specialist and director of innovation at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Chile.
However, not all schools have been able to become vaccination centers. To do this requires material and human resources that some educational facilities do not have, so they have preferred to leave them in the hands of primary care in health centers.
Authorities and experts hope that childhood vaccination will allow full presence in schools to be resumed as soon as possible. “It is an additional element that gives families even greater security and confidence to be able to return to face-to-face classes,” said the Minister of Education, Raúl Figueroa.
Dr. Torres affirms that the intention is to reduce the impact of the pandemic on children “not because of the infection itself, but because of collateral problems such as the lack of contact with their peers and the lack of face-to-face activity in schools that has had consequences in mental health (with an increase in depressive, anxious and suicide attempts), physical (with an increase in overweight and obese children) and in cognitive learning disorders “.
Chile has been one of the Latin American countries that longer it has remained with the schools totally closed and with classes exclusively on-line. When the partial opening was authorized and face-to-face was gradually implemented, most of the centers opted for a hybrid model. Although today 94% of the centers do face-to-face activities, the reality for most boys and girls is that they only attend class once or twice a week (or every 15 days) and the rest of the hours continue under the modality on-line.
Only some schools, most of them private, have taken up the daily presence with their own protocols. The College of Teachers has continuously opposed the face-to-face reopening, claiming that many schools “are not in a position to serve students and open their doors due to the abandonment in which they are” and the lack of resources.
For now, there is no consensus among the world scientific community on the vaccination of children under 12 years of age as there is for adults. Those who prefer not to apply it for now maintain that COVID does not seem more worrisome for children than other respiratory diseases, but those who choose to do so consider that vaccinating children can help protect others.
“Although children are less infected and tend to have milder or asymptomatic pictures, they can in the same way become infected and transmit the infection to others,” says Dr. Torres.
China was one of the first countries to authorize the COVID-19 vaccine among the youngest, from the age of three, last June, with the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines. In August the United Arab Emirates joined, which also started from the three, and then Israel.
Argentina is following the same path. Cuba, for its part, is the first country in the world to vaccinate girls and boys from the age of two, with its Sovereign 02 formula, produced on the island. El Salvador and Chile are vaccinating minors from the age of six and The United States will be the next to join this list.
In Chile, in recent weeks an increase in infections has been detected and capacity limitations have already been announced that represent a setback in the slow process of opening that the country was going through. It is feared for the arrival of a third wave, which is not known how it may impact.
Vaccination coverage with a complete schedule (for those over 18 years of age) reaches 89.5% and more than five million people have injected a third dose (or booster dose), which has become part of the vaccination scheme for those over 55 years old. The Ministry of Health does not rule out include an eventual fourth dose against COVID-19.