Pedro Pierluisi, the governor of Puerto Rico, announced Wednesday that all school children aged 5 and older are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend school.
Pierluisi claimed that few exceptions will be granted because the vaccines have been given approval for children from 5 to 11, according to The Associated Press.
Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said that the goal was to get 95 percent of 5 to 11-year-olds fully vaccinated, or around 227,000 children. Currently, around 87 percent of children between 12 and 15 have been inoculated.
The island with a a population of 3.3 million has so far reported around 219,000 COVID-19 cases, with 3,244 deaths.
On Nov. 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that all 28 million children in the United States between 5 and 11 get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Exceptions include those who have had severe allergic reactions to the vaccine or to any of its components.
Even though the CDC advisory panel members were apprehensive about heart inflammations among youth, they eventually agreed with CDC scientists that vaccine benefits outweighed the risks.
“I think the data supports that we have one more vaccine that saves lives in children and that we should be very confident to employ it to the maximum to do what it is meant to do without significant concerns about serious adverse events,” said Dr. Sarah Long, a panel member and professor of pediatrics at Drexel University College of Medicine.
Based on federal data, inflammation occurs in 16- to 17-year-old males at least 69 times per million doses after the second dose of the Pfizer primary series.
Since the start of the pandemic, over 1.9 million cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in children between 5 and 11, with 8,300 hospitalized and 94 dying. About 20 percent of the hospitalizations are for other reasons, according to the CDC.
Following the decision by the CDC, schools in Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the nation, announced that vaccines will be made available to students between 5 and 11 years of age.
Unlike Puerto Rico, the vaccines will be voluntary. Students above 12 years are, however, required to get vaccinations. Proof of vaccination is mandatory for attending in-person extracurricular activities for those in the age group.
New York City has also jumped on board with Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing the availability of pediatric vaccines in schools from Nov. 8. The mayor requested parental permission or presence during the inoculation.
The White House had already begun distribution of the pediatric vaccine even before the CDC gave its official endorsement.
“Starting the week of Nov. 8, the kids vaccination program will be fully up and running,” White House COVID-19 response team coordinator Jeff Zients said on Nov. 1.
“Parents will be able to schedule appointments at convenient sites they know and trust to get their kids vaccinated.”
Puerto Rico has some of the strictest pandemic-related restrictions in the country, with a curfew on alcohol sales only lifted in October.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as SARS-CoV-2.