JUST yesterday, I read three different stories from different wire agencies across the globe on the issue of inoculating the young. They were from Cuba (by Associated Press), Britain (by Reuters) and Brazil (by Reuters).
Understandably, leaders and the scientific communities of the world are worried about the impact of the delta variant of Covid-19 attacking principally the un-vaccinated youth, especially those of school age and infants.
While it is widely believed that the young have stronger resistance and better immune systems in their bodies, the emergency of rampaging delta variant attacking them in big numbers have sent chills to the whole world.
And if they persist to be unvaccinated, maybe newer variants—deadlier than delta—might wipe out their entire population and there might be no future generations to inhabit the planet.
Cuba begins jabs on kids as young as 2
The AP featured a story about a mother holding her 2 year- old daughter Lucia who was being injected with Soberana- 02 Covid-19 vaccine last Thursday.
Inside the room with them were several other children watching doctors in white coats and nurses with thermometers in amazement. In an adjoining room, another 2-year-old was sniffled while getting a shot as a clown tried to distract him.
Cuba on Thursday began a massive vaccination campaign for children between the ages of 2 and 10, becoming one of the first nations to do so. Health officials here say Cuba’s homegrown vaccines have been found safe to give to young children, the AP said.
“Our country would not put (infants) even at a minimal risk if the vaccines were not proven safe and highly effective when put into children,” Aurolis Otaño, director of the Vedado Polyclinic University, told The AP.
Otaño said the circulation of the Delta variant produced an increase in infections among the youngest, so Cuba’s scientific community decided to “take the vaccine to clinical trial” and it was approved for children.
The Polyclinic expects to vaccinate about 300 children between 2 and 5. Those between 5 and 10 are receiving their first shot at their schools.
Lucía’s mother, Denisse González, watched the children in the vaccination room while waiting the hour that her daughter had to be under observation after being vaccinated. “I was very doubtful and worried at first, really, but I informed myself,” she said.
“Our children’s health is first and foremost, which is the main thing and (contagion) is a risk because young children are always playing on the floor,” added 36-year- old González, an engineer.
In previous weeks, the vaccination of Cubans between 11 and 18 began. The plan includes two doses of Soberana 02 vaccine and one of Soberana Plus, as was done with adults.
Cuba faces a persistent COVID-19 outbreak that almost collapsed its health-care system. Provinces such as Matanzas, Ciego de Ávila and Cienfuegos received support from doctors from other parts of the country and even from international donors.
In addition to the Soberanas, Cuba has developed another national vaccine, Abdala.
According to Cuba’s Ministry of Health, 776,125 positive cases of COVID-19 have been registered with 6,601 deaths.
British study to test mixed vaccine dose on children
In London, Reuters said, a British study will look into the immune responses of children to mixed schedules of different COVID-19 vaccines as officials try to determine the best approach to second doses in adolescents given a small risk of heart inflammation.
Children aged 12-15 in Britain will be vaccinated from next week, while those aged 16-17 have been eligible for shots since August.
However, while the children will be offered a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, officials have said that advice about second doses will be given later, when more data is gathered.
Britain's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) initially declined to recommend shots for all 12- to 15-year-olds, citing uncertainty over the long-term impact of myocarditis, a rare side effect of mRNA-based vaccines such as Pfizer's. The heart condition typically resolves itself with mild short-term consequences, health experts have said.
Hong Kong has advised children only get one shot, owing to similar concerns over heart inflammation.
The study, called Com-COV3, will test different vaccine schedules in 12- to 16-year-olds, looking at the immune responses and milder side-effects.
"The concern here is about the risks of myocarditis, particularly with the second dose with Pfizer vaccine in young men," the trial's lead researcher, Matthew Snape of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told reporters.
"This will provide the JCVI with information crucial to informing their advice about immunizing teenagers in the UK," he said.
The trial will give all participants a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. That will be followed eight weeks later by either a second full dose or a half dose of the Pfizer shot, a full dose of Novavax's vaccine or a half dose of Moderna's shot.
The trial is recruiting 360 volunteers, not large enough to directly assess the myocarditis risk of the different combinations, which Snape said was 1 in 15,000 after two doses of the Pfizer shot in young men.
Brazil official wants stop to teen shots after death
In Brazil, the federal government wants to stop COVID 19 vaccinations for adolescents after a death under investigation and adverse events after some 3.5 million teens have been immunized. But several state governments vowed to continue, Reuters reported.
Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga criticized states and cities for jumping the gun by vaccinating 12- to 17-year-olds without health issues that put them at risk of severe COVID-19, which he said was only supposed to start on Wednesday.
Queiroga said healthy adolescents who have already taken one shot should not take a second - effectively seeking to halt nationwide immunizations for teenagers.
In a statement, federal health regulator Anvisa said there was "no evidence to support or demand changes" to its approval for children from 12 to 17 to be vaccinated with Pfizer shots.
Queiroga did not specify a reason for requesting a halt, but said there were 1,545 adverse events registered, with 93 percent of them in people who received COVID-19 shots other than the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine - the only one approved for minors in Brazil. He also said there had been one death registered, in the city of São Bernardo do Campo just outside the São Paulo state capital.
Anvisa in its statement said it was looking into the death of a 16-year-old who got a first dose earlier this month but that “there is no definite causal relationship between this case and the administration of the vaccine.”
Sao Paulo state, the country's most populous, said it has already vaccinated nearly 2.5 million people under 18 years old. Governor Joao Doria said on social media that Sao Paulo would not stop vaccinating adolescents.
The United States, Israel and some European countries have rolled out vaccinations to children. On Monday, England decided that all 12- to 15-year-olds will be offered a shot after senior medical advisers said kids would benefit from reduced disruption to their education.
According to Carlos Lula, the president of the association of state health secretaries, the majority of states do not plan to halt vaccinations for this age group.
In June, Chinese regulators approved the use of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines for children ages 3 to 17. The United States and many European countries currently allow COVID-19 vaccinations for children 12 and older.
Children have largely escaped the worst of the pandemic and show less severe symptoms when they contract the virus. But experts say children can pass the virus on to others and suffer negative consequences.
“As more adults receive their COVID-19 vaccines, children, who are not yet eligible for vaccines in most countries, account for a higher percentage of hospitalizations and even deaths,” said Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization. “We must be clear: children and young people also face significant risks.”
But, he added, it "would be reassuring to see if there was a lower inflammatory response after one of these changes compared to Pfizer (followed by) Pfizer," and that it might be "reasonable to infer that the risks of myocarditis might be lower" in such an instance.
I worry much about my grandson, 4-year-old Kafka. We do not bring him out at all—his enjoyment cut to the barest minimum (only with us at home and with his gadgets) and I am not sure if we are ready to make him attend physical classes next year when he reaches school age of 5.
But I am not alone. So many parents and grandparents like me constantly face the fear of having visitors at home and Kafka meeting other people, who might be carrying the virus.
I do believe that we should protect the children, as much as we protect the frontliners, the senior citizens and those with co-morbidities from COVID 19 and its delta variant. Let us give those willing to have their children/grandchildren inoculated the vaccines that would protect their young ones.
I firmly espouse that anyone—with no more priorities to be set—get the vaccine for so long as they want it and not force the issue on those that do not want the vaccine.
This way we can approximate herd immunity faster and without resorting to carrot and stick. Let the vaccine haters face the music of getting infected—they asked for it. But let those that want it, get it.
But I also strongly suggest that government should invest heavily on free public (mass) testing and take contact tracing seriously, if we want to reduce the surging infection levels.