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COPENHAGEN: The World Health Organization (WHO) in Europe on Tuesday cautioned against making Covid vaccines mandatory, while urging better protection of children among whom cases are high.

WHO Europe director Hans Kluge said compulsory vaccines should be "an absolute last resort and only applicable when all other feasible options to improve vaccination uptake have been exhausted".

Noting that mandates have increased vaccine uptake in some cases, Kluge said that these are "context specific", and added that the effect mandates may have on "public confidence and public trust" must also be considered.

The regional health bloc also noted that number of cases had increased "across all age groups, with the highest rates currently observed in the five to 14 years age group."

"It is not unusual today to see two to three times higher incidence among young children than in the average population," Kluge told a press conference.

Covid-19 toll tops 1.5 million in Europe: AFP tally

"The health risks extend beyond the children themselves," Kluge added, noting that children risk passing the infection to parents and grandparents in the home.

Improved ventilation and the use of masks should be a standard at all primary schools as part of a safe learning environment, while avoiding school closures and remote learning, the regional director said.

"Vaccinating children should be discussed and considered nationally," Kluge added.

The WHO's European region comprises 53 countries and territories, and includes several in Central Asia.

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