The extension of vaccination against Covid-19 to children under 12 is debated in France, but nearly 22,600 of them have already received at least one dose of the vaccine. As of November 18, 17,199 have been fully vaccinated and 110 have benefited from a booster. the “Covid Vaccine” file, which makes it possible to follow the progress of the vaccination, lists two first injections on toddlers from December 27, 2020.
These data, updated daily by Public Health France (SPF), may surprise because, unlike the United States or Israel, France does not, for the time being, authorize the vaccination of children.
A very large majority close to 12 years old
To understand the origin of these 22,600 exceptions, it is necessary to take into account the risks of entry errors, marginal, but which can give rise to a slight overestimation of these still very low accumulations – all age groups combined, more than 50 million people are now fully vaccinated in France.
A more detailed analysis of the figures identified by the agency shows that nearly 80% of complete vaccinations of the youngest concern children aged 10 and 11 years. “These are probably children in their eleventh or twelfth year, who were vaccinated immediately following the vaccination recommendations for adolescents”, interpreter Isabelle Parent du Châtelet, epidemiologist, head of the respiratory infections and vaccination unit of SPF.
The number of injections increases more significantly from June 15, when adolescents aged 12 to 17 became eligible for vaccination. In addition, on September 30, the health pass has become compulsory for children aged at least 12 years and two months, which may explain an anticipation of vaccinations for children approaching this age.
Some vulnerable children benefit from the vaccine
In the absence of an authorization to vaccinate children under 12, some pediatricians have taken on the responsibility, after consultation with parents, of immunizing their young patients who are most likely to contract a serious form of the disease.
For healthy children, SARS-CoV-2 is generally a minor threat. The individual benefit of vaccination remains modest and the lack of studies on its adverse effects for this age group does not yet allow a satisfactory benefit-risk ratio to be determined.
“But in the case of carriers of chronic diseases, the debate on the risk-benefit balance in children no longer holds, since the benefit is far greater than the side effects of the vaccine., explains Christèle Gras-Le Guen, president of the French Pediatric Society. These children were vaccinated without hesitation. “
The learned pediatric societies have come together to identify the patients to be protected as a priority. Among them, children suffering from very severe underlying pathologies, primary immune deficiencies, but also transplant recipients such as heart transplant recipients, or even dialysis patients.
Minimal cases of vaccination of the entourage
To protect the most vulnerable populations, practitioners can also recommend immunization of their relatives. “It is possible that there were young children vaccinated around children who could not be vaccinated themselves, because of immune deficiencies or diseases of the immune system”, details Mme Gras-Le Guen. A strategy encouraged by the Academy of Medicine in its opinion of November 17.
The European Medicines Agency is currently examining applications for vaccination authorization for children aged 5 to 11 for Europe. “We are waiting to see the studies come out, so as to be able to return to a more traditional framework of prescription”, the professor impatiently.
So far, laboratory work has focused on samples, a priori insufficient, of around a thousand vaccinated children. “Today, we have not had any major side effects reported, or poor tolerance on these children who have been vaccinated, but the level of information remains insufficient”, reports Mme Gras-Le Guen.
In pediatric wards, where “The vaccinations were made in a hurry to protect the children”, a register named COV-Popart is set up. It should make it possible to collect in a uniform format information on the vaccination of children under 12 years of age, in particular those suffering from co-morbidities.
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Covid-19: who are the 17,000 children under 12 already vaccinated in France?