September 22, 2021, the Pfizer-BioNTech laboratory completed a study on immunization of children aged five to eleven. This study was carried out on 2,268 children who received two doses of ten micrograms, or one-third of what is given to adults and adolescents.
In a joint statement, program managers at Pfizer and BioNTech said: “In participants aged 5 to 11, the vaccine is safe, well tolerated and exhibits a robust neutralizing antibody response.”
While the results announced by those concerned have not been made public, they have not been published in a medical journal, nor have they been peer reviewed.
The pharmaceutical giant, which has also conducted trials in the United States, Finland, Poland and Spain on children aged 6 months to 11 years, plans to publish new results soon.
However, some countries did not wait until the end of the studies to start vaccination programs for very young children. With 98% of its adult population vaccinated, Cambodia has just started vaccinating children from the age of 6 with the Chinese Sinovac vaccine. For its part, China has already injected it into millions of young people, applying its program from the age of three. Since last August, Israel vaccinates 5-11 year olds at risk while Cuba – in the grip of an epidemic that threatens the health system, has extended the vaccine to the youngest, from the age of 2 years.
The World Health Organization divided on the subject
The boss of the World Health Organization (WHO) seems to be alone today on this question. At a time when the whole world engages in the vaccination of adolescents and even children, Tedros Gebreyesus, still fiercely opposed to vaccination for this age group, has put forward a different point of view. Recalling that young people are much less at risk, since they do not develop serious forms of the disease, he believes that these doses should rather be intended for the African continent, whose vaccinated population barely reaches 2%.
Unfortunately, his call does not seem to have won unanimity, since within the organization, divergent voices are raised against this position. Indeed, the European director of the organization Hans Kluge believes that “everyone has the right to be vaccinated against Covid-19. When it comes to children, we need to keep schools open. So, if we take the European context, and if vaccines are available, then yes, adolescents must be vaccinated. Because otherwise, because of the Delta variant, we expose ourselves to many other difficulties ”.
The situation in France
The European Medicines Agency (AEM) has authorized the use of vaccines designed with messenger RNA technology (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) for children and adolescents aged 12 to 17 years for several months already. France, which has embarked on this path since June 12, 2021 does not intend to stop there.
During his trip to Marseille at the beginning of the month, Emmanuel Macron, who was visiting a school in the 13th arrondissement of Marseille, spoke on the subject. Responding to questions from several students who asked him about childhood immunizations, he said: “Countries have opened it up to people under the age of twelve, but we are following the specialists, the people who know, and for the moment we are continuing. over twelve years old. And then there are people who are worried, you have to listen to all that. ” And to add: “As soon as scientists say ‘we open it to the youngest’, we will”.
So, if the vaccination is not yet open to those under the age of twelve, the academy of medicine had made known its position last spring by issuing a press release in which it called for an obligation of vaccination also for children. According to the Academy, “the extension of vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 to adolescents and children should be considered as soon as the vaccine protocols are approved in these age groups”. According to this institution, the vaccination obligation having been put in place at other times for other vaccines, there would be no reason not to do the same thing with the vaccines against SARS-CoV-2:
“This measure was applied in France for smallpox (1902-1984), diphtheria (1938), tetanus (1940), tuberculosis (1950-2007), polio (1964), and extended in 2017 for eleven vaccines infants. It is essential in all cases where effective vaccination eliminates a widespread, severe and often fatal disease. With an effectiveness rate of 90 to 95% against severe forms of Covid-19, vaccines currently approved in France against SARS-CoV-2 meet the conditions which make it possible to resort to compulsory vaccination in the face of a formidable epidemic, in particular socially, as well as individual measures (barrier gestures) and collective measures (curfew, confinement ) are unable to control over time. “
The argument seems light. Don’t we say “comparison is not right”? First, the vaccines that were made compulsory in the past had been tried and tested for many years. They were not made compulsory immediately after their invention. It wasn’t until years later, after health authorities had ensured that the benefit outweighed the risk, that the obligation was put in place.
The argued opinion of Professor Jean-Marc Sabatier
Fortunately, in the midst of this weak argument, a few different voices tried to make themselves heard. Among them, that of Jean-Marc Sabatier, doctor in cell biology and microbiology, also director of research at the CNRS, affiliated with the Institute of neuro-physio-pathology of the University of Aix-Marseille.
Asked by infodujour.fr, the researcher provided argued biological explanations on the vaccination of young subjects. According to him, with the exception of specific cases of co-morbidities, children and adolescents are not very sensitive serious infection with SARS-CoV-2, unlike adults. As of July 22, 2021, there were 4.13 million children who had contracted the virus from Covid-19. According to the CDC (American Center for Disease Control and Prevention), the number of children who have died from Covid-19 is 335 as of July 20, 2021.
This low sensitivity of children or adolescents with the virus has several explanations. Coronaviruses associated with common colds in children provide some protection, depending on humoral immunity and T cell immunity cross-reacting between common coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2. The other reason is the complex hormonal / physiological system, which is very different from that of adults. Called the renin-angiotensin system (RAS), it is found in many tissues and organs such as the heart, intestines, lungs, kidneys, brain, vascular system, skin etc. Its proper functioning is essential since, otherwise, it is it which is targeted by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, by allowing the virus or the Spike protein to bind to the ACE2 receptor.
However, this system is very different in young people, who are very protected from the forms of SARS-CoV-2 by “the mobilization of the eosinophilic granulocyte”, mobilization which does not exist in adults. Young people also benefit from a “protective lymphatic tissue associated with the bronchi which promotes anti-microbial immunity by eliminating pathogens”.
All this combined helps to lower the production of cytokines, responsible for a progression to severe forms. However, the cytokine storm so dreaded in adults does not exist in children. Of course, there are still some exceptions of young people with commorbidities, but lethality is almost zero for this age group.
Is childhood immunization essential?
To answer this question, Professor Sabatier takes into consideration all the factors that could work in favor or against a vaccination in the youngest. Beyond the protective system specific to the immune system detailed above, the other element to consider is transmission. However, recent studies have shown that vaccination does not block the transmission of the virus to other individuals. Therefore, the altruistic element that requires that one also vaccinates for others cannot be invoked.
Finally, the last element of importance remains the dangers of a vaccination on which there is no hindsight as to the side effects, which can occur in the more or less long term.
For all these reasons, Professor Sabatier thinks that it is not desirable to include children and adolescents in a vaccination strategy whose benefit / risk ratio is not favorable to this age group.
See also: Immunizing Children, Really?