Sept. 17, 2021 -- Cuba has begun vaccinating children as young as 2 against COVID-19 because of a sharp increase in pediatric infections and deaths caused by the virus that causes the disease.

The child vaccinations started this week, making Cuba one of the first countries in the world to vaccinate children so young, the Miami Herald reported.

A dozen children have died of COVID this year, including three 2-month-old babies, after no pediatric COVID deaths in 2020, according to the newspaper.

The Herald, citing the Cuban Health Ministry, said 117,500 minors have been diagnosed with COVID throughout the pandemic, with 7,660 of them being breastfeeding infants.

Like many other nations, Cuba saw an increase in pediatric COVID cases in recent months because of the Delta variant. On Monday and Tuesday, the Health Ministry said there were 3,727 new cases, including 236 infants and 16 newborns.

Cuba is vaccinating its population, including the children, with the Soberana vaccine produced by the Havana-based Finlay Institute, a scientific organization created in 1991.

“We have children dying, getting severe disease,” Vicente Verez Bencomo, PhD, director of the Finlay Institute, said in a video conference organized by Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. “We are vaccinating children so we are moving closer to the point there is community immunity established.”

CECMED, Cuba’s regulating agency, gave an emergency use authorization last week for kids 2 to 18 years old to be given two doses of the Soberana 2 vaccine, followed by one dose of Soberana Plus booster.

CECMED based its vaccine authorization on a clinical trial of 350 children between 3 and 18 years old.

The Finlay Institute said 99.3% of clinical trial participants aged 3-11 and 92.9% of participants aged 12-18 had had an antibody response that was four times the pre-vaccination level.

“These results show that the SOBERANA02 vaccine is safe for its administration in children and adolescents; and that the global security pattern is similar to adults,” the institute said.

The results have not been published in peer-reviewed publications.

In the United States, the Pfizer vaccine was authorized for emergency use in May for children 12 and up, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are for people 18 and up.

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

Miami Herald: “Cuba starts vaccinating 2-year-olds, as COVID cases spike among children on the island.”

CECMED: “CECMED Approves the Authorization for the Emergency Use of the Cuban Vaccine Soberana 02 in the Pediatric Population.”

Finlay Institute: “Summary of the results of the Soberana-Pediatría Clinical Trial.”

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