Paediatricians divided on vaccinating children

By TPN/Lusa, in COVID-19, News · 16-07-2021 01:00:00 · 0 Comments

The still undetermined advantages of vaccinating children against Covid-19 are dividing experts, with some calling to start the programme while others would prefer to hold off.

Speaking to Lusa News Agency, Jorge Amil Dias, president of the College of Paediatrics, of the Medical Association, considers that currently “it is not an emergency to vaccinate children”, because “the population that is at greatest risk is the adult population”. And, therefore, he advises “prudence” before recommending universal vaccination.

He has called for “solid evidence” to ensure “that vaccines are effective” and “entirely safe” in a “provisional document” for “evaluation and approval” by the competent authorities, in which he expressed the “concerns” of the college, “which should be considered in the recommendation that the Directorate-General for Health [DGS] will give” on the matter.

“We do not know if it will be approved in the format it is in and when. But the DGS is certainly aware of the urgent need to take clear positions on these issues”, believes the expert.

Asked by Lusa about the long-awaited recommendation, a DGS advisor said only: “I can’t say anything about timings, we have to wait.”

José Gonçalo Marques, coordinator of the Infectious and Immunodeficiency Unit of the Hospital de Santa Maria and a member of the technical committee for vaccination at DGS said: “The vaccination of healthy children and adolescents must be clear in its objectives and be based on its reasonableness and the proportionality of the costs and risks of vaccinating”, he stresses.

José Gonçalo Marques recalls that, “in the national panorama of hospital admissions for SARS-CoV-2, people under 18 represent only a tiny part”.

He adds that “the evaluation is not finalised and alerts have emerged of possible cardiac complications from vaccination, which are also very rare, but which should make us wait”, he warns.

In the opinion of the paediatrician, vaccination of minors should be carried out when it can be predicted that “the expected benefit would far exceed the potential risks”.

In addition, “more data” are needed regarding the “lasting effectiveness” of vaccinating children to protect adults, he stresses.

“If the vaccine’s efficacy is long-lasting, each wave will be less and less expressive, unless a totally new strain emerges – and then the benefit of having children and adolescents immunized is zero”, he said.

“If the vaccine’s efficacy is not lasting, the vaccination effort will have to continue to focus on the population most at risk. It will not be possible or advantageous to vaccinate the entire population every year”, he points out.

The doctor also addresses the ethical dimension of the decision to vaccinate children or not, “especially in this situation where the direct benefit may not significantly outweigh the risks of vaccination, and the indirect benefit is still questionable”.

Paediatrician and epidemiologist Mário Cordeiro considers that “it is not really an ethical issue”, even though he agrees that “it is necessary to study more”.

Speaking to Lusa, the paediatrician highlighted that “there is still no company that says ‘they can vaccinate from birth’”.

Recalling that “vaccines are, in general, (…) used at any age, especially in childhood”, Mário Cordeiro observes that this virus, “when it does not find a susceptible age group, it turns to another”.

With the older ones already vaccinated, “one can imagine that after this group of 20-30, which is now the largest target group, if they are vaccinated, the virus will turn to the younger ones”, he warns.

Also Paula Leiria Pinto, immunoalergologist at Hospital D. Estefânia, considers that “the vaccine should be administered to children of any age, as long as its effectiveness has been proven”.

In her opinion, “this is the case” for vaccines against Covid-19 and, therefore, “we must move forward with the vaccination campaign in paediatric age groups”.

For Paula Leiria Pinto, the benefits of vaccinating the youngest are many: “The outbreaks are occurring in schools and in environments where there is socialisation of young people, which is natural, and therefore, if they are protected there are fewer transmission risks” to the general population.



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