“It seems necessary to consider vaccinating children and adolescents to reduce viral circulation in the population, and to protect them from a risk, admittedly low, but which deserves attention” : the Vaccine Strategy Orientation Council, in a note consulted by Release before its official publication, confirmed a perspective already mentioned by both the Minister of Health and the Institut Pasteur.
“The interest is not individual, but collective ”, underlines Vincent Maréchal, professor of virology at the Sorbonne, for whom integrating all those under 18 would provide better overall protection: “Even protected from serious forms, children are a relay for the spread of the virus. By vaccinating as much as possible, we will be able to break the viral circulation and limit the development of variants capable of bypassing vaccination or natural immunity ”, explains the researcher.
And, apart from the fact that children are not immune to the long Covid, enlargement appears necessary for collective immunity: “If we do not vaccinate them, they will be added to adults refractory to vaccination, which would make about 20 million unvaccinated people, a significant reservoir of infections”, warns the virologist.
From an ethical standpoint, the integration of children little affected by the disease in the name of collective immunity raises a fundamental question: the director of the Council Alain Fischer himself mentioned, on France Culture, a “Altruism form of vaccination”. A subject taken up by the National Consultative Ethics Committee, which should make a decision by the summer. In any case, parental consent is not a given: in a country as advanced in vaccination as Israel, a study published in April showed that only 41% of parents intended to have their children vaccinated.
In France, the question promises to be a hot one. The FCPE positions itself in favor of the vaccination of children: “As soon as the state chooses to impose vaccination for reasons of general interest and to preserve lives, there is no reason to oppose it. “, advances its co-president Rodrigo Arenas. “The objective of collective immunity is of course important, but we are very attached to the free choice of families, who should be able to decide, in responsibility, on the vaccination or not of their children”reacts Gilles Demarquet, president of the Association of Parents of Free Education.
Aware of the sensitivity of the subject, the Orientation Council for the vaccination strategy emphasizes that “The vaccination of children can only be carried out if the results of the efficacy and safety of these vaccines are obtained”. 100% efficacy for the Pfizer vaccine, according to a trial in adolescents aged 12 to 15 years, with no side effects different from those observed in 16-25 year olds. “From the age of 12, the immune response of the child is identical to that of the adult”, specifies Chantal Aubert-Fourmy, doctor and secretary general of the Circle of ethics in pediatric research (CERPed), “But significant variations could appear below this threshold”.
Pfizer and Moderna tests are underway on children under 12, especially in Canada, the first country to have given authorization for the use of the vaccine in adolescents on May 5. The United States has just followed suit, and vaccination of 2-11 year olds could begin there in the fall. Germany has announced that it wants to vaccinate all adolescents over 12 years old “By the end of August”, subject to authorization from the European Medicines Agency, which could be given as early as June.
For its part, the French Society of Pediatrics, which had ruled in February that vaccination “Did not appear to be necessary in children”, confirmed its preference for maintaining the effort to vaccinate the most fragile adults, but without subsequently excluding “The question of vaccination of adolescents from 12 years old”.