Children – a new target in the global vaccination campaign

Countries with high rates of Covid-19 vaccination are shifting their vaccine strategy to children, in order to lock down the risk of mutations.

The global Covid-19 vaccination race started with the elderly and high-risk populations, then gradually expanded to people of working age and adolescents. Children, especially those under the age of 12, are being considered by scientists and policymakers in many countries for the next step of vaccine coverage.

With the majority of the adult population having completed vaccination, the European Union (EU) is gradually expanding its vaccine coverage strategy to children, in order to reduce community transmission and prevent the risk of more dangerous strains appearing when nCoV can still be spread among children.

After Canada became the first country in the world to license Covid-19 vaccination for children over 12 years old on May 5, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) that month also approved the use of Pfizer vaccine for children. children between the ages of 12 and 15.

A month later, EMA approved more Moderna vaccine for subjects aged 12-17. In both studies involving more than 2,000 and 3,000 adolescents, respectively, none developed symptoms of Covid-19 after vaccination.

The EMA admits that the size of the studies is limited, which means that it is not possible to detect all the side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine in children. Although the childhood Covid-19 vaccination strategy has not been uniformly applied across Europe due to concerns about side effects, many countries have pioneered to increase vaccine coverage to younger populations. The EMA asserts that vaccinating children will provide benefits that far outweigh the risks.

A 13-year-old girl is vaccinated against Covid-19 in Estonia in August. Photo: AP.

A 13-year-old girl is vaccinated against Covid-19 in Estonia in August. Photo: AP.

The UK has allowed minors aged 16-17 to receive the Covid-19 vaccine from August 23. Children 12-15 years old who are at high risk for Covid-19 or live with adults at high risk of severe illness are also encouraged to get vaccinated.

The plan to expand vaccination to 12-15 year olds who are not at high risk has yet to be agreed upon by the UK. The Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization (JCVI), a medical advisory body to the British government, on September 13 concluded that mass vaccination of children is not necessary because of the proportion of children requiring intensive care. nCoV infection is still low, with an average of two per million healthy children infected with the virus. The JCVI argues that the benefits from vaccination are “not sufficient to support recommendations for mass vaccination” for this age group.

Meanwhile, four top medical advisers to members of the United Kingdom (including England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) say children 12-15 years old should get the first shot. This measure limits the risk of the new school year being disrupted by Covid-19 outbreaks. The second dose may be delayed to early 2022 or later, pending vaccination results and the world scientific community to collect more research data.

Other European countries like Italy, France and Germany adopt a more assertive vaccination strategy.

Italy will allow people aged 12 to 18 to get the vaccine without an appointment from August 16, aiming to vaccinate most of the country’s teenagers before the school year starts in September. Nearly 50% of 12-18 year olds in Italy have received a single dose of the vaccine and more than 28% have completed the vaccination. As of September 14, about 74% of the total population over 12 years of age has been vaccinated against Covid-19.

France is one of the first European countries to vaccinate children over 12 years old, starting June 15. After two months, more than 56% of people in the 12-17 year old group received at least one dose of the vaccine, more than 32% received the full course. From the end of September, people under the age of 18 in France when entering public places must present a Covid-19 green card, containing a certificate of vaccination or negative test information in the previous 72 hours.

Germany at first was also hesitant to vaccinate children like the UK, only recommending vaccination for children with underlying diseases. However, when the Delta strain broke out in Europe, the German health authorities accepted a change of strategy and recommended vaccination for all children aged 12-18.

The Standing Committee on Immunization (STIKO), which advises the German government on Covid-19 vaccine strategy, asserts that “current knowledge shows that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks from certain side effects. very rare of vaccines”.

The US also allows vaccination for children over 12 years of age and is waiting for more research in ages 5 to 11 with the Pfizer vaccine.

Expanding the age of vaccination is an increasingly urgent issue in the US, when the number of children infected with nCoV has skyrocketed recently. After the early summer decline, the number of pediatric Covid-19 patients is growing exponentially, with more than 750,000 cases recorded between August 5 and September 2, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Compared to the end of July, the number of weekly new infections in late August and early September increased by 250%.

Pfizer plans to submit vaccine research data for the 5-11 age group in September and apply for emergency use authorization for this population as early as October. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing it. Hope children under 12 years old have the opportunity to get vaccinated against Covid-19 this year. Immediately after the licensing step, the US may soon collect more vaccine safety data in the two- to 5-year-old group.

Research into the impact of vaccines on children needs more time, although the product has been shown to be effective and safe, according to Dr. Emily Chapman, vice president and professional leader at Children’s Hospital Minnesota. adults around the world. The vaccine for children after being approved by the FDA will continue to await evaluation at the Advisory Council on Immunological Measures of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Only a few countries in the world are implementing Covid-19 vaccination in children under 12 years old, typically Cuba, Chile and China.

Parents and students at a junior high school in Beijing wait for their Covid-19 vaccination in July. Photo: Global Times.

Parents and students at a junior high school in Beijing wait for their Covid-19 vaccination in July. Photo: Global Times.

June 7, China becoming the first country in the world to grant emergency use of inactivated Covid-19 vaccine for children aged three to 17 years old. The National Health Commission (NHC) has confirmed that this is part of a strategy to immunize at least 70% of the country’s population in all age groups and achieve herd immunity by the end of 2021.

Following the above decision, the child vaccination strategy in China was implemented step-by-step, by age group and local priority at high risk. The pilot model is planned to be rolled out in 11 provinces in July for the 15-17 age group, then expanded to the 12-14 year old group by August. Guangxi province aims to complete immunization of all youths. adolescents over 12 years of age in the second half of 2021.

China accelerated school vaccination in August, after a cluster of epidemics related to the Delta strain broke out from Nanjing and spread to dozens of other cities. On August 3, China’s Ministry of Education asked all localities to mobilize immunization for students and launch an emergency Covid-19 response mechanism.

All students under the age of 18 should be given permission to receive the vaccine and must ensure the consent of the parent or the student himself. Some provinces have added regulations that unvaccinated parents will not be able to send their children to school to limit the risk of nCoV infection.

Although it has licensed the use of inactivated vaccines for children 3-12 years old, in fact, Chinese health authorities have not yet implemented Covid-19 vaccination with this population and are waiting for research results. The only country in the world that has vaccinated children under the age of 5 is Cuba.

The mass vaccination campaign for children was launched by the Cuban government on September 3. With the exception of infants and one-year-olds, all children and adolescents under 18 years of age should receive at least two of a three-dose series of domestic vaccines. The vaccination plan is divided into two phases, with adolescents in the first half of September and children in the middle of the month.

According to the Cuban Ministry of Health, the Covid-19 mass vaccination campaign is organized according to the model of annual vaccination for childhood diseases, deployed through thousands of clinics and local treatment facilities. The Finlay Institute affirmed that the results of the Covid-19 vaccine trial in young children have demonstrated its safety and effective immune response.

“With the increase in infections among children, it is essential for families to protect themselves, so we are determined to vaccinate children and young people,” said Dr. Francisco Duran Garcia, a translator Cuba’s leading epidemiology, emphasis.

Trung Nhan (Follow Euronews/Global Times/CNN/Cubadebate/SCMP)

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