Vaccine for children stirs up debate

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Vaccine for children

Experts say hospitalisation, mortality likely to rise among the age group

Hyderabad: Children and adolescents in the country have largely remained unaffected in the first and second wave of Covid-19 pandemic.

However, there is a growing feeling among health experts and epidemiologists that a third wave of the pandemic could result in an increase in hospitalisation and even mortality among this age group.

The possibility of Covid affecting children and adolescents in the third wave has triggered discussions on the need to start ground-work for deployment of Covid vaccines at an appropriate time and to have specific guidelines to provide treatment.

Countries like United States and Canada have started vaccinating children between the ages of 12 years and 15 years. Recently, the European Commission authorised Pfizer-BionTech’s vaccine to start vaccinating young children while the UK too is planning similar measures so that school closures can be avoided in the coming days.

Do children need vaccine
The Lancet has urged for a careful examination of immunological, ethical and economic issues before deployment of Covid vaccines for children.

“Epidemiological reports up to now suggest that young children have a high likelihood of developing Covid-19 via household transmission, once a family member tests positive for Covid. There is little evidence of secondary infection from children to others in the transmission pathways of Covid-19. Vaccinating children cannot be justified if it is to give direct protection despite minimal burden of disease,” Dr Stephen K Obaru, University of Nebraska has written in The Lancet.

While there are questions over vaccinating young children, the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States said “Although fewer children have been infected with Covid-19 compared to adults, children can get sick and spread Covid-19 to others”. It recommends that 12 years and older should get Covid-19 vaccination and added, “Widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the pandemic. People who are fully vaccinated can resume activities that they did prior to the pandemic.”

In a recent article in Nature (April, 2021), Ewen Callaway said “If we really want to get back to normalcy, we really need to achieve herd immunity across all the groups that potentially contribute to transmission”.

Evidence is building that vaccines might block transmission of SARS-CoV-2, so vaccinating children could have beneficial knock-on effects in the wider community. Emergence of faster-spreading variants along with rising adult vaccination rates in some countries means that children and adolescents might soon be contributing more to the spread.

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