Covid-19 vaccine for children 'almost indispensable': University of Catania study published in Nature
Children and covid-19: strengthen studies on the safety and efficacy of the Covid vaccine among under-15s and, in the event of a positive outcome, promote a worldwide vaccination campaign
This is the hope of a study entitled ‘Covid-19 vaccination for children: may be necessary for the full eradication of the disease’ prepared by Professors Andrea Praticò and Martino Ruggieri of the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine at the University of Catania and published in the journal ‘Pediatric Research’ in Nature.
Covid-19 and children: the Kawasaki-like disease
“In recent months, the most significant contribution against the spread of Covid-19 has come from the extraordinary and effective vaccination campaign that, together with lockdown policies, physical distancing and other protective measures, has dramatically reduced infection and mortality rates,” the study says.
However, this massive vaccination campaign has only recently involved children over the age of 12.
This lack of attention to the youngest is motivated by the fact that Covid-19 infection in childhood has a well-recognised benign and limited course, with low to moderate fever, flu-like and gastrointestinal manifestations.
Nevertheless, in a very limited proportion of young patients, Covid-19 may be associated with a more severe condition, initially reported as ‘Kawasaki-like disease’ and later recognised as ‘multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children’, the study continues.
This syndrome involves paediatric patients of all ages (average age 8-9 years, half of the cases between 5 and 13 years) and, most importantly, in most of these cases it is not preceded or accompanied by pre-existing medical conditions.
Half of these patients require intensive care treatment, with a mortality rate of between 0 and 4%.
It is not yet clear why only some paediatric patients develop this serious condition, but nearly 3,500 cases have been reported in the United States through May of this year”.
The reasons for giving children the Covid-19 vaccine
The research adds: “Since it has been difficult to justify a Covid-19 vaccine in children for a disease that has mild consequences in most cases, partly because children play a minimal role in the spread of infection, to date few studies have been performed on the efficacy and safety of Covid-19 vaccines in children, and a broad vaccination campaign for this age group is still some way off,” the study continues.
Only by demonstrating the usefulness and safety of messenger RNA vaccines in children aged 12 to 15 years will it be possible to increase the number of people vaccinated and thus achieve herd immunity.
As of today, it is presumable that Sars-CoV-2 will continue to spread, even with a lower incidence, limited to the unvaccinated (in particular children under 12 years of age) and consequently some measures for young children such as keeping physical distance and wearing individual protection at school, as well as during sports and recreational activities in an enclosed environment, will probably still be necessary in the coming months, with problematic psychological and physical consequences.
Governments and pharmaceutical authorities should encourage studies to test the safety and efficacy of vaccination against Covid-19 in children, also considering that in many underdeveloped countries the percentage of the population under 15 years of age is dramatically higher than in Western countries, and that only a worldwide vaccination campaign can effectively contain the disease, also limiting the possibility of development of new variants of SARS-CoV-2,” the study concludes.
If the vaccine proves to be safe and effective in children, it will be necessary to promote educational campaigns on the usefulness and safety of vaccination among children in order to achieve optimal population coverage and prevent Covid-19 and possible mortality among related young people”.