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Synopsis: Vaccination has helped the world to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the debates over-vaccination of Children still continues.
Covid-19 has impacted all sections of society, especially children. Debates have been going on to initiate Covid vaccination drives for children. This issue was raised, particularly in India, when the reopening of schools was tied to the vaccination of children.
What are the risks involved with children during the pandemic?
It was found that Covid has a low impact on children. Even the newly found variant Delta is not deadly for children. So, the risk of death for children from Covid-19 is extremely low.
In comparison, for persons aged below 25, the risk of traffic accidents or even suicide is about 10 times higher than death due to COVID-19.
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What are the Short term effects of Covid vaccines on children?
The risk of Covid vaccines on children is low, but not negligible. In the past, there have been instances of side effects, even death, in many countries including India. Considering these, Australia, the U.K., and many European countries have not recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine (Covishield) for children.
The only vaccines in use for 12+ are the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. But these too put children at risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). For example, In USA-one in 6,000 pose a risk of a cardiac adverse event from the Pfizer vaccine for boys aged 12-15.
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What are the long-term effects of covid vaccines on children?
All the current COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out have only limited short-term safety data, as clinical trials are likely to go on till 2023. Also, vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna use new gene-based technology (mRNA). This is different from previous vaccine technology. So, we are not sure about the long term effects.
Another issue is that vaccine makers have been granted zero liability. This is because they do not want to take the risk, if some side effects of the vaccines emerge after 3-4 years of vaccination.
What were the lessons of previous vaccination trials and children?
The history of emergency vaccination across the globe has not shown good results.
Swine flu vaccine: The swine flu vaccine, Pandemrix, was rolled out in response to the 2010 pandemic. But soon the vaccine was withdrawn as it caused narcolepsy (sleeping disorder) in children.
Dengue Vaccine Dengvaxia: The vaccine was withdrawn after 19 children died of antibody-dependent enhancement.
Since the risk of COVID is low in children, one needs to carefully consider the need of vaccinating the children against COVID.
Source: This post is based on ”Should children be giving COVID 19 jabs” published in The Hindu on 15th September 2021.