Senegal authorizes COVID-19 booster shots, vaccines for children

FILE PHOTO: Amid a surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Senegal
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DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegal has authorized COVID-19 vaccines for children over 12 and booster shots for adults, the health ministry said on Thursday, as vaccine hesitancy complicates its fight against rising infections from the Omicron variant.

The booster dose will initially be aimed at people identified as vulnerable to severe illness, the health ministry said in a Twitter post on Thursday that included a ministry letter dated Jan. 11.

After struggling with lack of access to vaccines at the beginning of the global rollout, Senegal, like many countries across Africa, has had an additional problem in recent months getting shots into arms.

Vaccine hesitancy and logistical problems resulted in hundreds of thousands of doses expiring without being used late last year.

So far the country has fully vaccinated about 8% of its 17 million population, according to health ministry figures.

It has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases since late December, after the highly contagious Omicron variant was detected.

A handful of other African countries, including Guinea, Namibia and South Africa, have already started vaccinating children 12 and up.

The Omicron-fuelled fourth wave is flattening on most of the continent, but North and West Africa are still experiencing a rise in cases, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

Senegal has reported more than 81,000 cases and 1,903 deaths from coronavirus since the pandemic began.

(Reporting by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Edward McAllister and Frank Jack Daniel)

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