By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti
School going children aged below 12 have started getting COVID-19 jabs as Rwanda continues to increase the number of the vaccinated.
According to the Ministry of Health, over two million children between five and 11 years are set to benefit from the countrywide exercise.
The administration of the vaccine started Tuesday, September 20.
According to Dr. Tharcisse Mpunga, the State Minister in charge of Primary Healthcare, government is administering the paediatric formulation of the Pfizer vaccine (10 microgramme/dose), approved by different regulatory bodies including Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority.
The World Health Organisation has also approved the dosage for emergency use.
“Vaccinating children against Covid-19 is already ongoing in other countries. The rationale is to protect the wider society from further pandemic impacts by closing the immunity gaps in the population,” Mpunga said.
He added that vaccinating children 5 to 11 years reduces circulation of virus in the community and limits the risk of further outbreaks in both healthy people and those vulnerable to severe Covid-19 such as pregnant women and older adults.
“The number of children who got infected or died of Covid-19 remains low. We are encouraging parents who have children within the age brackets of 5-11 year to sign consent document for the children for them to get vaccinated,” said Mpunga
This particular formulation is administered in two doses at four to eight-week intervals between both doses.
Statistics from Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) indicate that, as of September 18, among the 132,488 cases of Covid-19 reported in Rwanda, children aged 5 to 11 years were 4,358 representing 3.3% of total cases.
Vaccination will mainly be done at schools and according to Mpunga, the Ministry of Health is working with schools to ensure children pick up the consent forms, take them to their parents to sign and return them to schools or at the designated vaccination centers.
Information from the Ministry of Health indicates that, while Covid-19 tends to be milder in children compared with adults, it can make children very sick and cause children to be hospitalized. In some situations, the complications from infection can lead to death.
The role that young children play in transmission within households remains difficult to estimate because of their high prevalence of asymptomatic infection and the changing transmissibility of new variants.
Government assured the public of the vaccine safety also, the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) concluded that in all age groups the benefits of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines in reducing hospitalizations and deaths due to Covid-19 outweigh the risks.
“The efficacy and immunogenicity are similar or higher compared to adults; safety and profile in children and adolescents are similar to young adults. Pfizer vaccine paediatric formulation is given as a shot in the muscle of the upper arm or in the thigh of a young child,” reads an RBC fact sheet about the vaccination of children.
In offering assurance for the safety of the vaccine, RBC indicates that COVID-19 vaccine ingredients are considered safe for most people. Nearly all of the ingredients in Covid-19 vaccines are ingredients found in many foods—fats, sugar, and salts.
None of the vaccines affect or interact with the DNA and vaccines do not contain preservatives, antibiotics, medicines or therapeutics, tissues, food proteins, metals or latex.
Meanwhile, as of Sept 18, there were 9,174,616 people in Rwanda that had received the first dose of the vaccine, of those, there were 8,945,720 who got the second jab while 316,615 had got a booster shot