If there were doubts about vaccinating or not vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11, it was a matter of prioritizing resources, according to Federico Martinón, an expert in vaccination. It was evident for minors at risk but for healthy children it was not urgent. Now the general vaccination in this age group will be a reality. Martinón-Torres indicates that there is no reason to worry: “the safety of the vaccine is guaranteed.”
– Is it a different vaccine from that of the elderly?
-Yes. In clinical trials we were able to verify that a lower dose, specifically one third of the dose used in adults, is sufficient to produce the same protection.
–Does vaccination pose any risk in this age group: from 5 to 11 years of age?
–None different from the usual risks of any vaccine. Specifically, in addition to the data we have from clinical trials that allowed regulatory agencies to approve the use of these vaccines at this age, since then they have been administered to millions of children, mainly in the United States; More than four million children ages 5 to 11 have received this vaccine and there has been no safety incidence, however rare, that could have escaped in clinical trials.
– Why were there doubts?
–The doubts are not about the safety of the vaccine, that it may be harmful to children or that it may not work. The doubts centered on the priority of vaccinating healthy children against COVID.
-In healthy children …
–I have no doubt that children who have risk factors at this age, just like adults, (we can talk about immunosuppression, drugs that weaken the immune system, deficits or serious neurological diseases …) are a priority. Just like adults. Those children should already be getting vaccinated and I have no doubt in that regard due to the frank benefit it has for this group. Then there is also a priority vaccination for children of these ages who live together in environments where there are people with immunodepression or very high risk even if they are vaccinated, because we tighten the protection fence around them. And then there is the healthy child in this age group. Indeed, the direct benefit of vaccination is less because they defend themselves much better from the disease on their own (better than adolescents and adults) and that is where the doubt arises if we think about the direct benefit it may have. But there are other benefits to consider as well.
-That children are protected from the possibility that at some point there are new variants that are specifically harmful to children. That they are protected and can have a fuller life, that they do not have to do the quarantines as when they are not vaccinated, that they can travel … in some way, that the disease and the pandemic context interfere less in their lives. Although the risk of disease is very low, it is not zero. Anyway, what I wanted to explain is that COVID vaccination is a much higher priority in high-risk patients wherever they are, that is, a higher priority than vaccinating healthy children is, without a doubt, vaccinating any adult or any person of any age with risk factors, regardless of where they live, precisely to avoid situations like the ones we are currently living with omicron or whatever may come. It is the only way to end this pandemic once and for all.
– Should parents worry?
-No. I insist. It is not a security issue. It is a matter of prioritization. The debate is not that the vaccine can harm children, at all, but that we prioritize resources for other things, either for other vaccines in children or to vaccinate other people for COVID who need it most where are.
“Those who infect are adults: we suspected it from the beginning of the pandemic and it has not changed”
– Could not vaccinate them be detrimental for the future?
–The authorities approve vaccination in this age group, they provide us with free vaccination of our children. Avoiding vaccinating them is not going to get those doses to go to other places where they can be a higher priority or that instead of that vaccine they get another one that is not free and that is important. It does not work like that. In other words, we are not going to miss this opportunity because, I insist, that they are less a priority in the healthy child than in other groups does not mean that it is not good, that it is not beneficial or that it has some risk for the child.
– Children are contagious?
-No. Those who infect are adults. That paradigm, for the moment, the one we suspected from the beginning of the pandemic, has not changed. This does not mean that a child cannot infect. But the adult is much more effective in contagion than the child. What happens is that since they are not vaccinated and control measures have been relaxed, then, obviously, it is more likely to find cases in unvaccinated people than in vaccinated people. Therefore, children, not being vaccinated, it is more normal that we see more cases. But they are not the engine of this pandemic; there is no data to think that this is so.
–You propose to include other vaccines in the children’s calendar.
–There are vaccines that are approved for these ages and are a higher priority than the COVID vaccination. This is not to say that COVID vaccination is bad, but rather that we have to seize the momentum and momentum to update children’s vaccination schedules and include all vaccines from which they can benefit: meningococcus B, meningococcus ACWY in the adolescents and infants, papilloma in men, rotavirus in infants … If we are clear that we can and must vaccinate healthy children and we can afford it, I think it is a good time to reflect on updating the calendar .
“If it is now another vaccine, they may separate one or two weeks”
–What specific effects, after its administration, can the vaccine have on children?
–The safety profile is good and is not different from other vaccines: local discomfort (pain at the injection site), feeling of discomfort, low-grade fever … are some of the common effects.
–They normally pass the coronavirus without symptoms.
–Precisely the fact that it is much less serious, usually asymptomatic in this age group, is one of the arguments that makes vaccination in this group a less priority. And also the role they play in the broadcast. But, I insist, it does not mean that it is not good.
– How is the situation in other countries?
– The United States is already doing it, Israel too and now many other Europeans. Outside the European context, there are other countries that use another type of vaccine and are already vaccinating children from the age of three, especially on the Asian continent.
–If the child has to get one of the vaccines on the calendar now, in addition to the coronavirus, can they be administered on the same days or should they be spaced?
–We know that there are no significant interactions between COVID vaccines and other vaccines due to a general vaccination principle and because it is a vaccine that we call inactive, that is, it does not contain live material; we do not expect interference. In general there is no problem in co-administration. I wouldn’t worry. Generally, when in doubt, arbitrary periods between vaccines are usually established. If in doubt, the administration of one vaccine can be separated by one or two weeks from the other. But in the case of these vaccines there is very low risk and I do not think it is important to set intervals.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.