Compared to the Delta variant, currently the predominant one in Europe, greater vaccination coverage has led to a lower number of hospitalizations due to the infection.
Currently, 79.2% of the Spanish population has a complete vaccination schedule against covid-19. But despite the high percentage of the vaccinated population, there is a progressive increase in the incidence of covid-19. Most of the cases are observed in the unvaccinated population, especially in children under 12 years of age.
Children under 12 years of age represent 11% of the population in Spain, according to official data as of January 1, 2021. The inclusion of this group in the vaccination strategy will make it easier for vaccination coverage to approach 90%.
Vaccines available for children under 12 years of age
On November 25, the European Medicines Agency approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the age group 5 to 11 years. For its part, the regulatory agency for the approval of drugs for use in the United States had already authorized it in October.
This preparation aimed at children is also a messenger RNA vaccine that encodes the S protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The dose in the infant formula is lower than in the vaccine for the adolescent and adult group. It contains 10 micrograms instead of 30.
The vaccine vial is also different to avoid confusion. In the vaccine for adolescents and adults, the vial has a purple cap, while that of the pediatric one is orange. The recommended time interval between the first and second dose is also 21 days, although this interval will be 8 weeks in Spain.
This is the only formula available. Moderna’s vaccine planned for children between 6 and 11 years of age is still pending authorization.
The childhood vaccine, for last
Vaccine development has been staggered. The initial priority was the immune protection of adults against COVID-19. This sector of the population is the most vulnerable to infection by SARS-CoV-2. You have the highest risk of hospitalization and death. The incidence of severe covid-19 in the 0-12 age group is much lower.
Also, the development of childhood vaccines is subject to greater demands than in vaccines for adults. This is the case of the additional requirements in the safety of infant vaccine preparations.
For these reasons, there has been a greater delay in childhood vaccination. But recently, the evolution of the pandemic has increased interest in the administration of the vaccine in this age group.
This is the vaccine prepared for the children’s group
The clinical phase of the Pfizer-BioNTech children’s vaccine study against COVID-19 was carried out in 2,268 children 5 to 11 years of age. The results indicate that the effectiveness of the immune response by antibodies is similar to that observed with the formula for adults in the group of 16 to 25 years. In addition, its efficiency reaches 90.7%.
Notably, the side effects of the infant formula were mild to moderate and disappeared within 1 to 2 days. These effects consisted mainly of redness and swelling at the puncture site. In addition, fatigue, loss of appetite, headache, muscle and joint pain were observed.
The incidence of systemic effects, such as fever and chills, was lower than in the 16 to 25-year-old group and generally occurred after the second dose.
Childhood vaccination would reduce the contagion of covid-19
According to data reported by the Ministry of Health, vaccinated people have a lower risk of infection. Vaccination protects us, even from the Delta variant, accelerates the elimination of the virus and reduces the risk of contagion in the family environment.
The large percentage of vaccinated and the mandatory use of indoor masks are determining an incidence of covid-19 in Spain much lower than the figures registered in other European countries.
However, the incidence is not the same in all age groups. In fact, in the group under 12 years of age it is much higher than the population mean and currently the difference is greater than 100 points.
The data indicate that this unvaccinated group could act as a reservoir and source of SARS-CoV-2 infection, as we remember that asymptomatic or mildly ill people can also transmit the virus.
The child population continues to be exposed to the coronavirus
Another aspect to consider with regard to childhood vaccination is the risk of symptomatic disease. Additionally, children and adolescents can experience persistent COVID-19.
Sometimes, covid-19 can evolve seriously in some children under 12 years of age. In fact, this risk has increased with the expansion of the Delta variant. We have seen it in the United States, where there has been a 5-fold increase in hospitalization rates for children and adolescents ages 0-17 that was associated with increased circulation of the Delta variant.
Since the pandemic began in December 2019, 3,259 children under the age of 10 have been hospitalized in Spain. Of these hospitalizations, 863 (26%) occurred between June 20 and September 15, along with a greater presence of the Delta variant.
In short, in the current epidemiological situation, childhood vaccination against covid-19 will help reduce the transmission of the virus and the incidence of this infection in the population as a whole. In addition to this, it will protect children under 12 years of age against the risk of serious covid-19.