Will children ages 5 to 11 be eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine before the end of the year? It is in any case a possibility that arises, after the publication this Monday by the American-German laboratory Pfizer / BioNTech of its results considered promising. However, the study has not yet been peer-reviewed and we will still have to wait for the opinion of the European Medicines Agency and then the High Health Authority for the vaccine to reach children in France.
- What do the results from Pfizer and BioNTech say?
The work is promising, says the lab. “In participants ages 5 to 11, the vaccine is safe, well tolerated and exhibits strong neutralizing antibody responses,” US giant Pfizer and its German partner said in a joint statement, reporting the results of their work in clinics.
These partial results published this Monday are based on a study carried out in 4,500 children between 6 months and 11 years in the United States, Finland, Poland and Spain.
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The two companies plan to send this data to authorities “as soon as possible,” the statement said. They state that the immune response is “comparable” to that seen in people aged 16 to 25 who have received a higher dose vaccine. However, be careful because this study has not yet been peer reviewed and has not been the subject of a scientific publication.
- When could this happen in France?
While Dr. Ashish Jha, one of the leading Covid experts in the United States, is considering vaccinating his 9-year-old son before Halloween (i.e. October 31), so far, the European Agency for Medicines (EMA) and the US The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, based on messenger RNA technology, since the age of 12.
For the vaccination of people over 12 years of age, the European Medicines Agency gave its approval on May 28, less than two months after the first positive results announced by Pfizer / BioNTech. France followed suit, after consulting with the Haute Autorité de Santé, and opened vaccination to adolescents on June 15. Or three months after the publication of the results by the laboratory. If the same scenario occurs for the vaccination of children aged 5 to 11, it could start in about three months, that is, at the end of December, one year after the first injected dose against Covid-19 in France.
- What could change this extension of vaccination to children aged 5 to 11 years?
Regarding the issue of herd immunity, its threshold can be reached more easily if more people, and therefore children, are included in the vaccination schedule. “The foreseeable evolution of the pandemic towards a banal infection profile with seasonal recrudescence can be accelerated by the herd immunity obtained through universal vaccination,” the Academy of Medicine stressed in early September.
Currently 58 million people can be vaccinated in France. If vaccination for children ages 5 to 11 is approved, this figure would rise to 64 million, or almost the entire French population.
However, the Delta variant stopped the dream of permanently ending the pandemic through herd immunity alone. Vaccinated people, protected very effectively against severe forms of the disease, have only partial protection against infection and transmission. “This means that, even if 100% of the French received the injections, the virus could continue to circulate silently, but with less impact on the health system”, deciphers for L’Express Simon Cauchemez, responsible for the modeling of the ‘Institut Pasteur and member of the scientific council. Continuous vaccination remains essential to develop immune protection and reduce the impact on the health system.
Including with young children? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the benefits of immunizing children under 12 years of age have not yet been proven. They are considered to have a lower risk of developing a severe form of Covid-19. Currently, only 46 people under the age of 9 are hospitalized in France. However, some scientists fear that with the spread of the more contagious Delta variant, serious cases could appear even in the very young.
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The argument has also been made by the CEO of Pfizer himself. Due in particular to the spread of the Delta variant, “since July, pediatric cases of Covid-19 have increased 240% in the United States, highlighting the need for vaccination” of the youngest, he commented this Monday, seeing in the Latest The published data constitutes a “solid basis for authorization applications”.