Vaccination for young children needed for faster herd immunity

Parents are also eager to protect children as schools prepare to open in the light of new contagious variants of Covid-19

by S BIRRUNTHA / Pic by AFP

VACCINATING children aged three to 11 years is likely necessary to accelerate herd immunity to protect the population against Covid-19 pandemic, experts say.

In a recent webinar session organised by Pharmaniaga Bhd, health experts said parents are also eager to protect children of all ages as schools prepare to open in the light of new contagious variants of Covid-19.

Currently, only children aged 12-17 years are eligible to be vaccinated, but vaccination for younger children is expected to be introduced soon.

The Sinovac vaccine has been approved in China for children aged three to 17 years, with only mild reactions being reported.

Millennium Institute of Chile director of immunology and immunotherapy Dr Alexis M Kalergis said based on the paediatric population in China’s vaccinated children, the vaccine has shown a high safety and efficacy result.

He said in Chile, the inactivated vaccines are commonly used among the population for other diseases such as polio and hepatitis.

“We have received a high recommendation from the Ministry of Health and Scientific Committee, where they have been supporting the approval for the emergency use of Covid-19 vaccine in children aged six and above.

“To date, it has been moving efficiently and the adverse effects are very rare. And of course, in our study, we have collected good data for its safety and efficacy,” he said at the webinar session titled “Covid-19 Booster Shots and Vaccination for Children: Moving Forward with Experiences from China, Chile and Indonesia.”

Bio Farma Indonesia operational director Dr M Rahman Roestan concurred that the vaccination of younger children is important to reach herd immunity.

He said, however, based on the Indonesian health perspective, more clinical trials are necessary to determine the safety and efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine among children.

Rahman said after Indonesia reached approximately 70% of the adult population, child vaccination started right after.

“This pandemic has impacted many people, especially children. Mostly, it will affect their social skills, education, physical and mental health, and limited social interaction. We have retrieved the data that 78% of parents agree to vaccinate their children once the vaccine is available,” he said.

He also noted that more than 64% of parents in Indonesia have agreed to send their children to school if the authority implemented strict protocols.

“We are now in the middle of registration for children aged 3-17 years and have submitted clinical trials for Phase 1 and 2 to Indonesia’s National Risk Assessment, the result looks promising based on its safety profile,” he said.

Currently, the Sinovac Covid-19 global clinical trial has started in South Africa with Chile, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Kenya participating for children aged 3-17 years old.

The total number of children under 18 which makes up a significant proportion of 28.3% of Malaysia’s population of 32.7 million in 2020, according to the Children Statistics for Malaysia 2020.

Therefore, the experts concluded that the faster that children and adolescents are vaccinated, the sooner herd immunity is achieved for Covid-19.