Iran approves vaccination of children aged 5-11

Decision taken amid spike in omicron infections.

Iran approves vaccination of children aged 5-11

Iranian health authorities have approved COVID-19 vaccination for children aged 5-11 in a phased manner with prior consent of parents.

Mohammad Hashemi, a spokesman for Iran's Health Ministry, told reporters on Saturday that the national anti-coronavirus headquarters had given its go-ahead for vaccination of children between 5 and 11.

The nationwide vaccine rollout will be held in a step-by-step manner and with the requisite consent of parents or guardians.

Mohsen Mansouri, the governor of Tehran, said the action is "voluntary" and with "consent of parents".

The type of vaccine to be administered and the number of doses will be announced by the anti-corona scientific committee and the Health Ministry, he added.

The announcement comes amid a spike in the number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations among children under the age of 10 in Tehran and other major cities.

Dr. Alireza Zali, the head of coronavirus combat taskforce in Tehran, said the issue must be given "serious attention."

He said 43% of children currently hospitalized for COVID-19 did not have underlying conditions, which he said points to a new trend, while emphasizing on vaccinating children in the wake of the emergence of omicron strain.

On Saturday, Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East, recorded 3,503 new cases and 30 deaths, a significant drop from a few months ago.

In a tweet on Saturday, Hashemi said it was difficult to determine the percentage of omicron cases in the country, saying some experts estimate it to be 30%, while not ruling out the possibility of it reaching 40%.

He added that the rate of vaccination of the booster dose as a "safe solution against coronavirus" has "not yet reached the desired level".

So far, 60.4 million have received at least one dose of vaccine, 53.5 million have got two jabs and 14.2 million have been administered the third booster shot as well.

Iran began its mass vaccine rollout late, as import of vaccines was hindered by US sanctions. However, in the last few months, the speed of vaccination has gradually increased, making up for the delayed start.

Hüseyin Demir