Germany and the Netherlands, and soon France? While older people are encouraged to get a new booster dose against Covid-19, these two countries will, in turn, be able to vaccinate the most vulnerable babies. These decisions follow the European Medicines Agency’s October 19 recommendation to allow vaccination of children under 5 years of age, starting at 6 months of age. Each country is free to choose its own strategy in this area.
In Germany, the Stiko’s expert committee recommended on Thursday, November 17, the vaccination of children “posing an increased risk of severe Covid”, as well as premature babies. The Pfizer vaccine should preferably be used with three doses or two for toddlers who have already contracted Covid. On the other hand, children without health problems are not called to “sting” because they have “the vast majority of infections are mild or asymptomatic.”
The risk of pimas is significantly reduced
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In the Netherlands, the Health Board also calculated on Tuesday 15 November that “interest in vaccination is limited for most children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years.” They have few severe symptoms when infected, and the risk of multisystem inflammatory syndrome (Pims), one of the severe forms of Covid in children, has declined since the introduction of the Omicron variant. This has led to a high number of infections, but Pims “rarely occurs in the event of a new infection.”
As in Germany, in the Netherlands it is now recommended that only children be contacted “who present an increased risk of a serious form”, for example, if they suffer from a heart or lung disease. However, in some “exceptional” cases, such as “indirect protection of a vulnerable and unvaccinated relative”, a healthy child may also be immunized.
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Outside of Europe, the United States will be vaccinating anyone under the age of 5 from June. 1.7 million of them received at least the first dose, ie. vaccination coverage in this age group is close to 10%.
In France, neither the government nor the Higher Office of Health (HAS) has spoken out on the matter since the announcement by the European Medicines Agency. Last February, then Health Minister Olivier Veran indicated that vaccination of children under the age of 5 was “not relevant”. But “that doesn’t mean it will never happen,” he added.
“The benefits can be substantial”
Scholars are divided. “The vaccine is very well tolerated in this age group and the benefit can be significant for the full six months. (…) We know little about the risk of long-term Covid at this age, but why not try to reduce it? “Asks epidemiologist Antoine Flahaud, director of the Geneva Institute for Global Health. “In addition, babies are important carriers of the infection. Protecting them, we also protect their elders in the family, in kindergarten, in society. Even if it’s not 100%, it’s still good to take,” he adds.
Conversely, other doctors and scientists believe that vaccinating toddlers is clearly not a priority when so many children already have some kind of immunity after contracting Covid. In addition, in France, only 5% of children aged 5 to 11 received at least one dose of the vaccine. This is one of the lowest rates in Europe. And for several months now, the health authorities have reported very little on the vaccination of children.