Did the World Health Organization say kids should *not* get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Uncertainty and Misinformation Vaccines

A: No. The WHO said that where vaccine supplies are limited, vaccinating children is not a priority.

Viral social media posts and some popular anti-vaccine channels did a great job this week spreading misinformation about the World Health Organization’s stance on vaccinating children with available COVID-19 vaccines.

As is often the case with misinformation, it’s pretty straightforward to trace this particular rumor back to its origin and see how the truth got twisted. The amazing folks at First Draft News broke it down in a recent post (linked below):

In early April 2021, the WHO posted guidance on their website noting that children “should not be vaccinated for the moment”, while endorsing authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccines as safe and effective for adults. This guidance was based on widespread shortages of vaccine, which necessitated prioritizing groups more vulnerable to disease, hospitalization, and death — i.e., older and medically frail individuals. At the time, there was also limited safety and efficacy data for adolescents.

On June 11, WHO Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan explained the organization’s position that vaccinating children is not a priority: “Because children, though they can get infected with Covid-19 and they can transmit the infection to others, they are at much lower risk of getting severe disease compared to older adults.”

Despite that statement, vaccine skeptics and vaccine misinformers pounced on the wording of the April guidance earlier this week to claim that the WHO was newly recommending *against* vaccinating children, and implying that this was based on new safety data.

🚫This is not true.

Following a June 22 update, the WHO website now has this to say about COVID-19 vaccines and children (full post linked below):

“WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) has concluded that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is suitable for use by people aged 12 years and above. Children aged between 12 and 15 who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 may be offered this vaccine alongside other priority groups for vaccination. Vaccine trials for children are ongoing and WHO will update its recommendations when the evidence or epidemiological situation justifies a change in policy.
 While the supply of vaccines is limited, the ongoing priority is to vaccinate those most at risk of serious illness who still have not been vaccinated in many parts of the world: older people, those with chronic health conditions, and health workers.”

The U.S. CDC continues to recommend that everyone 12 and older get vaccinated against COVID-19 vaccine (link below). Adolescents 12-17 are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine under its emergency use authorization; those 18 and older are eligible for any authorized vaccine.
🎩Hats off to First Draft News for their incredible ongoing work tracking and debunking misinformation of all kinds. The Nerdy Girls highly recommend subscribing to their daily or weekly briefings to stay up to date on the infodemiology beat!


First Draft News post

WHO June 11 video

WHO guidance updated June 22 (scroll down to “Is the vaccine safe for children”)

CDC guidance

Link to Original FB Post