COVID-19

Covid-19: “progressive and optional” vaccination of children

LThe debate on childhood immunization continues. If France says it wants to proceed with caution on this issue, while the level of contamination of the youngest and their role in the transmission of the virus remain uncertain, Olivier Véran unveiled new sanitary measures on Friday, December 3. For children from 5 to 11 years old at risk of developing severe forms, vaccination should be open “from mid to late December”, announced the Minister of Health in France Info.

This is what the High Authority for Health (HAS) recommended on Tuesday, mentioning obese children or children affected by certain diseases (heart, respiratory, etc.). For all the others, it will arrive “probably at the beginning of January, gradually and optionally,” the minister continued, confirming an earlier announcement by the government. But first, it will take the green light from HAS, which “needs a little more time to tell us if the vaccine is perfectly safe and effective and if the benefit-risk balance is positive.” Vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 years (less dosed version of the Pfizer vaccine) has been theoretically possible since its authorization in the European Union on November 25.

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“Wait and see”?

In Italy, health authorities gave the green light on Wednesday. In France, some find that it takes too long. In a column published Wednesday on the L’Express site, a group of doctors and parents called for “a decision on vaccinating children based on scientific data,” lamenting a “wait-and-see attitude” on the issue. They argue that the incidence rate (proportion of new cases) in children increased dramatically during the current fifth wave: among children 6 to 10 years old, it is 750 cases per 100,000 children of the same age group.

“We must end the myth of the child who does not care about Covid-19 in France,” argues the forum. In contrast, scholarly pediatric societies estimated in mid-November that “the urgency of vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 does not seem so obvious at the moment in France”, since “they present the most often minor forms of the disease “.

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According to these companies, it is necessary to see how the vaccination of children between 5 and 11 years is carried out in the countries where it has been decided, such as the United States. It’s about looking back at the “benefit-risk ratio of this vaccine” in this age group. In other words, knowing to what extent the expected benefits outweigh the risk of side effects. For its supporters, the immediate vaccination of children between 5 and 11 years old would also have collective virtues: limiting the contamination of children and avoiding the closure of classes.

Ethics

According to the ministry, 4,578 classes were closed this week (or 0.9% of the total) due to Covid-19. This is half that of the previous week, but this fall is artificial since the protocol has changed: there is no longer a closure of classes in primary schools since the first case of Covid detected in a student, and only those who gave positive.

“The cost-benefit balance [de la vaccination chez les 5-11 ans] It’s probably something positive, ”Swiss epidemiologist François Balloux, director of the Institute of Genetics at University College London, told the Contrepoints site. “But if we have to choose between vaccinating children or improving immunization coverage in the elderly, there is no picture: it is better to vaccinate a single 75-year-old person than 500 children! “he added.

It shows that the question is not easy to decide, the French government has not only asked its scientific bodies for an opinion, but also the body in charge of advising it on ethical issues, the National Ethics Committee (CCNE).

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