While many countries, including the United States and China, already vaccinate children sometimes as young as 3 years old, France is hesitating.
This will be the main topic of the Health Defense Council this Monday, according to a document from the Ministry of Health consulted by AFP. France has doubted for weeks about the vaccination of children between 5 and 11 years old in the face of the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases linked to the Delta variant. Many countries have already taken the step, notably the United States, Israel, China and Canada, but the French authorities remain very cautious about this. On Friday, the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, indicated that the vaccination of children from 5 to 11 years old should be opened from “mid-December” for children at risk of developing serious forms, this concerns 360,000 children according to the High Authority of health. (HAS) that gave the green light to this unique vaccine.
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So why a wait-and-see policy? It should be noted that the National Ethics Consultative Committee (CCNE) has not yet responded to the executive’s referral on this issue, which still leaves the government a few days from deciding. Then, Olivier Véran explained on Friday, “the HAS has not yet ruled (on vaccinating all children, editor’s note). It needs a little more time to tell us if the vaccine is perfectly safe and effective and if the balance benefit / risk is positive, in which case we will open vaccination to children probably at the beginning of January, gradually and optionally, “he added, referring then to” a cocoon effect. “A more precise schedule for vaccinating children from 5 to 11 years will be indicated at the end of the Council meeting on December 6. The opening of vaccination to all children in this age group is scheduled for “early January 2022”, but will remain optional.
Meanwhile, “Pfizer pediatric vaccine doses will be delivered” to hospital pharmacies starting December 13, then “in town” from “late December” to “licensed health professionals.” To date, only Pfizer’s Covid vaccine has received approval from the European Medicines Agency for “use in children 5 to 11 years old.” In addition, it is this vaccine that is widely used in the United States and Canada.
Few serious cases in children.
According to the Health Minister, if the unprecedented incidence among children 6 to 10 years of age of 750 cases per 100,000 children is worrying, “there are very few serious cases in children.” “This is called the cocoon effect: when we protect and limit the spread of the virus in populations that do not have symptomatic forms, we prevent it from spreading to the most fragile populations,” he concluded. For a group of doctors and parents, this is a “myth.” This group, which published a column on the Express site, deplores the French waiting attitude on the subject.
For the Swiss epidemiologist François Balloux, director of the Institute of Genetics at University College London, quoted by AFP, “the cost-benefit balance (of vaccination in children aged 5 to 11 years) is probably slightly positive.” “But if we have to choose between vaccinating children or improving vaccination coverage in the elderly, there is no picture: it is better to vaccinate a single 75-year-old person than 500 children!” He said.
The Omicron variant could put everything in doubt
But here’s another parameter to keep in mind: the Omicron variant. More contagious according to early reports, it is causing an increase in infection among children in South Africa, South African health authorities reported Friday. For hospital admissions, “we are seeing quite a strong increase in all age groups, and particularly among those under the age of 5,” said Dr. Wassila Jassat, a public health specialist at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). ). “The incidence among those under 5 is now the second highest, just behind those over 60,” he said during a news conference.
The number of positive cases is also increasing among 10-14 year olds in this country with a particularly young demographic, as in Africa in general. One third of the South African population is under 18 years of age. Scientists come up with several possible reasons. Children under the age of 12 are not eligible for the vaccine in South Africa, and it is possible that if the children are not vaccinated and neither are the parents, the entire family is infected, according to Dr. Jassat. If at the moment no deaths have been regretted among the children declared positive, the next few days will be decisive to know the danger of this new variant.
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