WHO guidelines were misinterpreted to claim kids and teens need not be vaccinated against COVID-19

By: Rajini KG
April 11 2023

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WHO guidelines were misinterpreted to claim kids and teens need not be vaccinated against COVID-19


The Verdict Misleading

WHO has only recategorized children and teenagers as a ‘low-priority' group for getting the vaccine. It never said children don't need vaccines.

Claim ID e8b8596f


The World Health Organization has been monitoring the COVID-19 situation across the world and issues timely guidelines for countries about the vaccination rollout and taking precautions against emerging new variants. A post about recent WHO guidelines is doing rounds on social media with the claim that the global health body has said children and teenagers no longer need the vaccine. A Facebook user shared a screengrab of a supposed Daily Mail article and wrote, "Now they've told the truth ... too late now those as lots have taken the shot," implying the COVID-19 vaccinations are dangerous. The headline of the article reads: "World Health Organization says healthy children and teens probably don't need a Covid vaccine." The screengrab also shows the date of publication, March 29, 2023, and the author's name in the byline.

Anti-vaxxers around the world continuously oppose the COVID-19 jab and believe that COVID-19 is not a virus but a ‘preplanned scam’ funded by wealthy people and governments since the pandemic started. Many conspiracy theories have done the rounds of social media previously too. In this background, users have shared the screengrab of the Daily Mail article out of context with misleading narratives about the vaccine.

In Fact

Logically accessed the Daily Mail article seen in the viral screengrab that was published on March 29, 2023. The article talks about revised guidelines that were issued by the WHO on March 28, 2023. The screengrab that is being shared crops out key points and sub-headings published in the article and only shares the headline. The article has been taken out of context on social media platforms. The Daily Mail clearly stated that “the global health agency deemed healthy children and adolescents 'low priority' for Covid jabs.” It highlighted the same in one of the sub-headings missing from the viral screengrab. 

According to the guidelines shared on WHO’s website, WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) talked about three COVID-19 priority-use groups when it comes to vaccination rollout: high, medium, and low. WHO has asked countries to categorize populations into these groups, depending on the risk of serious illness and death, and taking into account vaccine performance, cost-effectiveness, programmatic considerations, and community acceptance. 

The ‘High’ priority group includes older adults, frontline healthcare workers, pregnant women, younger adults with major comorbidities, people with immune-compromising illnesses, and 6 months and older children. The ‘Medium’ priority group includes children and adolescents with comorbidities and adults under 50 to 60 without comorbidities. The ‘Low’ priority group includes healthy children and adolescents aged 6 months to 17 years. The WHO has advised countries contemplating vaccination for the low-priority age group to base their choices on contextual circumstances. The guidelines do not in any way state that all children and adolescents “no longer need the vaccine.”

The reason healthy children have been included in a low-priority group is that they have a lower risk of getting infected with coronavirus compared to people in the other categories. If they do contract the infection, the disease will not be severe, as per WHO. The guidelines also include a quote by SAGE Chair Dr. Hanna Nohynek. who said, “Countries should consider their specific context in deciding whether to continue vaccinating low-risk groups, like healthy children and adolescents, while not compromising the routine vaccines that are so crucial for the health and well-being of this age group."

CNN reports that the recommendations by WHO change as the pandemic evolves. Reuters points out that the proposals come as various nations adopt different strategies. Other high-income nations, including the United Kingdom and Canada, are already providing COVID-19 boosters to patients who are at high risk.

Moreover, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already recommended COVID-19 vaccine booster for everyone — including kids older than 6 months and adults.

The WHO has been under the radar of anti-vaxxers since the pandemic began, with many false narratives doing rounds on social media. Logically has previously debunked many false and misleading narratives around COVID-19 and the vaccine. 

The Verdict

WHO’s revised guidelines on considering healthy kids and teens as ‘low priority’ for vaccination have been misinterpreted. WHO has urged countries to continue the vaccination drive by taking into consideration contextual factors. Therefore, we mark this claim as misleading.

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Global Fact-Checks Completed

We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before