Soon the turn of the children? If the authorities still refuse to discuss the possibility of vaccinating the youngest, the option is indeed ” on the table “ said Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister for Industry, during an interview on Europe 1 on April 11. Most scientists see it as a necessity to get out of the crisis, starting with the president of the Covid-19 vaccine committee, Marie-Paule Kieny. “Of course, children and adolescents do not have a serious form of the disease, but universal vaccination would further reduce transmission”, argues the vaccinologist in an interview with The cross.
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“We will not be able to cut the vaccination of children, at least we would be wrong”, also believes Professor Yves Buisson, president of the Covid-19 cell of the National Academy of Medicine. While the Institut Pasteur believes that the “Return to normal life” will only occur when 90% of the adult population is vaccinated, the epidemiologist considers this goal difficult to achieve. “At best, we will have vaccinated 50% of adults this summer, he believes. Only the vaccination of children will make it possible to increase the coverage rate to 70 or 80% of the overall population, and thus to confer effective global immunity on us. “
But on the side of pediatricians, reluctance wins. “Covid-19 in children is most often asymptomatic, children are not very contagious and very few severe forms have been described, even for those with chronic pathologies”, points out the French Society of Pediatrics in an opinion of February 2, 2021. Which concludes that in view of the “Little data on the efficacy and safety of vaccines available in children”, vaccination of this population does not appear ” necessary “.
“It is true that, for the youngest, the benefit of vaccination is less individual than collective, underlines Vincent Maréchal, professor of virology at the Sorbonne. However, we must not forget that the Covid can lead to persistent symptoms or Kawasaki disease ”.
For Professor Yves Buisson, the debate is actually less sanitary than “ politico-cultural ”. “For the flu, for example, France has chosen to vaccinate the elderly and at risk, but in other countries, such as the United States, children are also vaccinated. Admittedly, it is in the elderly that it is the most dangerous, but it is the children who are the main reservoir. In the case of the coronavirus, they are not the most carriers of the virus, but they are often asymptomatic and live in communities, which increases the risk of contamination ”, underlines the professor of medicine, who adds that the advance in vaccination of adults could create a “Postponement of the disease in the youngest who are not protected”.
Collective protection more than individual
What age group would be privileged? “We often talk about 10-18 year olds, roughly speaking college and high school students, because we know with certainty that this is a population where the virus circulates, indicates Vincent Maréchal. But the question sometimes arises for children under 6 years old or even from the age of 16 months, even though toddlers are neither super transmitters nor the most exposed to serious forms, he observes. Here again, this would be a way of giving priority to collective protection, except for children at risk. “
It remains to be seen whether the vaccines currently in circulation are effective and safe for this public. Trials are underway with Pfizer and Moderna, the results of which should be known in the summer. “For Pfizer, the first data show a good quality of the immune reaction in 12-15 year olds, but the tests relate to small numbers of 3000 young people and we do not yet know the side effects on a large scale”, points out Vincent Maréchal, for whom this vaccine presents another major advantage: that of clearly blocking the circulation of the virus.
An oral form to favor?
And Israel, he explains, we see that it protects 90% of infections, which was not acquired for an injectable vaccine. In general, this type of vaccine prevents serious forms of the disease, but does not prevent being a carrier and therefore a transmitter, unlike many oral vaccines ”.
An oral form which could also be preferred in the event of vaccination of the youngest. For example a nasal spray, modeled on the influenza vaccine offered to little Americans. “It is a solution under study”, says Yves Buisson. One thing is certain according to him: “We will have to do pedagogy with parents. A concept that the authorities invoke a lot but that they have not applied much until then … “