Trials of the coronavirus vaccine are underway to determine if the vaccine is safe for children.
Multiple studies have shown that the number of children who become seriously ill from COVID-19 is very small and that the disease is more likely to hospitalize adults.
But vaccinating young people will eventually be an important part of the solution, experts say, to ensure herd immunity.
Here’s a look at what we know about vaccinating children against COVID-19.
Multiple ongoing studies to determine if children can be vaccinated
Several vaccine companies are beginning to conduct vaccine trials in younger children.
American biotech firm Moderna, which has its mRNA vaccine Authorized in the US and Europe, said Tuesday it plans to enroll 6,750 young people between the ages of 6 months and 12 years in its vaccine trial.
In December, Moderna had begun a trial of its COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17. The trial had around 3,000 participants.
The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca announced plans in February to test their COVID-19 vaccine in children between the ages of six and 17 to determine if they have an immune response to the vaccine.
The UK study recruited 300 participants of whom about 240 received the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine.
“While most children are relatively unaffected by the coronavirus and are unlikely to feel bad about the infection, it is important to establish the safety and immune response to the vaccine in children and youth, as some children may benefit from the vaccine, “said Professor Andrew. Pollard, the lead investigator for the Oxford vaccine trial, in a statement.
Pfizer is currently testing the COVID-19 vaccine produced with German biotech company BioNTech in children.
A company spokesperson told Euronews that there are 2,259 participants in a 12-15 year trial.
“Pfizer and BioNTech expect to begin additional studies in children between the ages of 5 and 11 in the next few months, and in children under the age of five later in 2021,” the spokesperson said.
The US President’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, predicted that information from trials in children ages 12 to 17 would be available by the fall, but that information on younger children would be available at 2022.
“We will not have data on elementary school children until at least the first quarter of 2022,” said Dr. Fauci.
Children at lower risk of developing severe COVID-19
It is well documented that children are less likely to develop severe COVID-19 than adults.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of 190,000 COVID-19 deaths analyzed in the United States, 121 people were under the age of 21. Of those people, 75% had an underlying medical condition.
A Italian report Of all deaths from COVID-19 they said there were 21 deaths in people under 19 years of age. UK national statistics showed that there were 20 deaths in people under the age of 19 due to COVID-19 as of January 2021.
Robert Koch Institute of Germany It said that 10 people under the age of 19 had died of COVID-19 as of March 2021, while in France, a total of four people under the age of 14 died of COVID-19, according to the country’s public health body.
“The actual number of hospitalized children is very small compared to the number of adults and of that subset of children, the proportion of seriously ill is also very small,” said Dr. Thomas Christie Williams, a pediatrician and clinical professor at the University. from Edinburgh.
Christie Williams added that previously it was thought that children also did not transmit the virus, but that the opinions of experts had evolved on the matter.
“They probably transmit the virus, they can probably transmit each other in different settings. I think we can say that children don’t transmit more than adults, and the extent to which they transmit it probably depends a bit on age.” he told Euronews.
He says children are likely not “super spreaders” of the virus, as there have not been many outbreaks in elementary school.
Vaccinating children could be key to achieving immunity in the population
Despite the fact that trials are only just beginning in younger children, experts argue that vaccinating children could be an important step towards increasing the population’s immunity to the coronavirus.
“Six months ago, people would not have contemplated vaccinating children. But they can transmit disease and disease will not be eliminated without immunizing children. A large part of the population in most countries is children,” said Christie Williams .
In an editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Perri Klass and Adam Ratner, who work in pediatrics at New York University, argue that “effective herd immunity will require [child] vaccination.”
Klass and Ratner discuss the example of measles, noting that the virus does not cause serious illness in children, but that vaccinating them was critical to reducing cases of the disease.
They say it can be difficult to convince parents to vaccinate their children against a virus that does not cause serious illness in children so the vaccination campaign will have to show the benefits of doing so.
“I think any vaccination campaign will have to convince people that it is protecting children against a very rare risk of serious disease and it is also helping to protect the population,” says Christie Williams.
But he is not concerned that people will reject the vaccine and say that acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine has been high in the US and the UK, for example.
“If moving on with their lives means everyone gets vaccinated, I think people will agree to that,” he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism