- Modeling from the Institut Pasteur suggests that 90% of adults should be vaccinated to be able to suppress the circulation of the British variant of Covid-19.
- But if France decided to vaccinate children, this percentage would drop to 70% of those under 65.
- The debate on the vaccination of children therefore seems open, even if for some pediatricians it is very premature while France still lacks doses and data on the side effects of vaccines on children.
When can we get our life back? Not right away, if we are to believe the latest modeling from the Institut Pasteur. Indeed, several French researchers have looked at the effect of vaccination on the dynamics of the Covid-19 epidemic. These modelers believe that the vaccination of children could be a way to imagine the end of restrictions and barrier measures. 20 Minutes explains why.
According to the Institut Pasteur study, only 20% of French people contracted the virus more than a year after the start of the pandemic. The researchers point out that the arrival of the so-called British variant, which is more contagious and more lethal, changes the situation to achieve collective immunity. “We announced at the start of the epidemic that 60% of people were required to be immunized to achieve collective immunity, which represents the threshold from which the epidemic no longer evolves”, recalls Jean-Stéphane Dhersin, deputy director scientist at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and specialist in epidemic modeling. Now, if we imagine that the English variant increases the R0 to 4, [c’est-à-dire qu’un malade contamine en moyenne quatre personnes], it will therefore be necessary to vaccinate much more. ”
How much precisely? “If the vaccination campaign concerns only the adult population, it would be necessary that more than 90% of adults be vaccinated for a complete relaxation of the control measures to be possible”, note the researchers of Pasteur. “A figure that scares, recognizes Jean-François Dhersin. In view of the current acceptability, when the president says that we will reopen in May or June, it is unrealistic. “Indeed, according to our YouGov health barometer, in partnership with Doctissimo, in mid-March, only 58% of adults wanted to be vaccinated against Covid-19. A figure that comes up in many other surveys and which has been increasing very slowly since the start of vaccination.
Vaccinating children, a premature debate?
To get out of this Chinese puzzle, the Institut Pasteur therefore blows an interesting lead: the vaccination of children. “If vaccines are shown to be safe in children and to effectively reduce susceptibility [risque d’infection] in this population, the vaccination of 60-69% of 0-64 year olds and 90% of those over 65 years old could allow the complete relaxation of control measures. “This coverage is much more possible”, reacts the researcher at the CNRS. In an interview with Release, Marie-Paule Kieny, president of the Covid-19 Vaccine Committee, went in the same direction: “if we want to further limit the circulation of the virus and the occurrence of variants, we will have to consider vaccination of children. ”
But for Christèle Gras-Le Guen, president of the French Pediatric Society, this debate is premature. “You have to proceed in stages. We are in the process of vaccinating the most fragile patients, the most exposed subjects, caregivers and teachers. Then, we will have to extend the indications to all adults, in particular young adults because it has been shown that it is among them that the virus circulates widely. The other priority is to vaccinate fragile children. Moreover, a hundred children have already been vaccinated in France, when they have immune system deficits. ”
What Do Studies Say About Children?
For the moment, vaccines against Covid-19 are not authorized for those under 16, for lack of sufficient studies on this young audience. But laboratories have anticipated this debate. On March 16, Moderna announced a clinical trial to test a pediatric vaccine against Covid-19 in children aged 6 months to 11 years. Pfizer had a head start: their clinical trials as early as 2020 had included adolescents between 16 and 18 years old. They therefore opened the vaccination step by step to younger minors. With an unexpected result: according to a clinical trial carried out in the United States on 2,260 adolescents and unveiled on March 31, the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine is 100% effective in 12-15 year olds.
“We have to make sure that the benefits are significant and the disadvantages minor,” continues Christèle Gras-Le Guen. For the elderly, the balance is clearly positive. Where it becomes a real discussion is when the expected benefit is minimal. The side effects will then have to be zero or almost zero, otherwise families will not agree to vaccinate their children. ”
“We are waiting for more data”
France is preparing a study on the effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine in children with Covireivac. “Parents and child volunteers will be offered to participate in the clinical trial to assess, not the efficacy, but the side effects and the production of antibodies,” explains the president of the French Pediatric Society. For the moment, there are no children included yet. Childhood vaccination, we think about it, but we are not there. We are waiting for more data. If we discover two serious side effects, we stop right away. ”
The United States is already planning to vaccinate children in the summer, the United Kingdom in the fall. The debate is therefore likely to arrive soon in France. In addition, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), seized by parents of children refused by nursery schools for lack of having been vaccinated in the Czech Republic, issued its opinion on Thursday: according to it, compulsory vaccination is “Necessary in a democratic society”. “This judgment reinforces the possibility of a compulsory vaccination under conditions in the current epidemic of Covid-19”, commented Nicolas Hervieu, a lawyer specializing in the ECHR, questioned by AFP.
Still, if four in ten French people refuse vaccination for the moment, how many will agree to have their children vaccinated? Especially knowing that the latter remain little infected and rarely by serious forms. “We are in the country of vaccine-skeptics, there was no reason for this pandemic to change things, sighs Christèle Gras-Le Guen. Accepting the side effects of a vaccine for young people who risk only mild illness is an act of good citizenship. However, the individual interest that we must be able to put forward is: vaccination rhymes with end of crisis, place on the terrace and in the cinema. What would bother me is that we have to vaccinate small children when adults would not have done so. A CP child understands: the virus mainly affects young adults and very few children, before thinking about vaccinating his next, vaccinate yourself! ”
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