From this Monday, the vaccination campaign enters a new phase. 18 years and over can now be vaccinated. 1.5 million people are expected to receive a summons. But how can we convince 18-25 year olds to respond to this call, when the percentage of sick people in this age group is relatively low? For Muriel Moser, immunologist at ULB, there are two main reasons that should encourage young people to be vaccinated: “Medically, there are very good reasons to go through vaccination for this population. First, because it is necessary to reach the famous 80% of people vaccinated within the population to achieve collective immunity to protect the most vulnerable people. Secondly, because it makes it possible to reduce the number of hosts in which the virus can replicate.“So it’s all profit for the common good.
Get vaccinated for yourself too
But there is also a double benefit for the person himself, continues Muriel Moser: “There are about 20% of young patients who have a long covid. It is a disease that we do not yet understand very well, but we know that the patient’s immune system turns against the body itself.“With serious symptoms: respiratory problems, heart palpitations, extreme fatigue, etc. which can last for weeks or months. The vaccine is therefore an important protection. But there is a second reason:”People who have received two injections or who have had the disease and have been vaccinated are much better protected against the variants. More and more scientific publications show that their immune response is much stronger to covid variants, including the Indian variant which arrives slowly but surely in us. These are good reasons to encourage 18-25 year olds to be vaccinated: to protect society and to protect themselves.“
And to regain freedom
For Professor Sophie Lucas, immunologist at UCL, this is not the population most at risk, it is true, but: “It is a population susceptible to an infection which is sometimes symptomatic of covid and especially to transmit it to others. And of this, young people are beginning to be aware of it. And then, from what I hear among the young people around me or in the media, more and more of them are asking for the vaccine in order to regain their freedom as quickly as possible. To rediscover behaviors that we have lost for months, to see who we want and when we want, including grandparents, sick people by avoiding wearing a mask or social distancing. Without the vaccine, they may not be able to return to mass events. And then to protect yourself. When you are in an exam session and you pay yourself a one-week covid, that’s not really what makes it easier to pass the exams.“For this age group, we will administer the same vaccines as for all the others, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (except AstraZeneca which has been decided in Belgium to do not administer to those under 41 years of age).
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And the youngest?
Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke announced on Sunday that 16 and 17 year olds can be vaccinated against covid by mid-July. In Israel and the United States, people are already vaccinated from the age of 12. However, the WHO has appealed to rich countries not to vaccinate their young population too quickly in order to make more doses available to the poorest countries which are also the most affected. A good idea for Sophie Lucas: “It is essential today that we ask ourselves the question of how, as quickly as possible, to ensure mass vaccination in countries which do not have the means or the necessary organization to achieve it alone. But that should not distract us from the objective of vaccinating younger populations here. It is not a binary choice. First the young people here and the others afterwards or the opposite. Every imaginable effort must be made to achieve both goals.“
And in this regard, the vaccination of 12 to 15 year olds is also being studied but an opinion is awaited from the European Medicines Agency.