Covid vaccine and children: what we know

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Covid vaccine and children

A few days after the green light from the FDA (American Medicines Agency) and the EMA (European Medicines Agency) to the Pfizer vaccine for the age group 5-11 years, many parents are worried about the possible side effects of the vaccine and skeptics about the need to vaccinate children and young people against a virus that rarely causes serious clinical manifestations in younger people. So let's try to take stock of the situation with the Prof. Guido Castelli Gattinara, President of the Del Paesena Society of Pediatric Infectious Disease and Director of the Institute for Child and Adolescent Health of the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital in the city.

In this article

  • the Covid vaccine in children
  • why vaccinate the little ones
  • risks and benefits of the vaccine
  • Pfizer vaccine effective in adolescents
  • how the COVID vaccine for children works
  • Will the vaccine be mandatory?

The anti-Covid vaccine for children and young people

At first, children and adolescents were excluded from the Covid vaccine trials because the priority was to protect the population groups most at risk, the elderly and the sick above all. But with the arrival of data on the efficacy and safety of vaccines on adults, even i minor 18 years have been included in clinical trials with the aim of stopping the spread of the virus as soon as possible.

"The first company to have obtained the green light from the FDA and the EMA for vaccination on children between 12 and 15 years is Pfizer BioNTec, but other pharmaceutical companies are also studying the safety and efficacy of the anti-vaccine. Covid in the little ones, so as to be able to vaccinate even children from 6 months to 11 years "says Prof. Guido Castelli Gattinara. After the positive opinion of the American Medicines Agency, now the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech anti-Covid vaccine in children and young people has also been approved in our country.

According to the Minister of Health Roberto Speranza, "vaccinating young people is highly strategic and essential for the safe reopening of the next school year". But is it really so? Is it really necessary to vaccinate children and young people in order to stop this terrible pandemic once and for all?

Also read: Covid-19 in children: it is less lethal and causes milder symptoms

Why it is important to vaccinate children and young people

If it is true that young people are usually protected from the serious consequences of Covid-19, why is it so important to vaccinate them? Many parents are wondering. "Experience shows us that in the vast majority of cases children and young people they do not develop a severe form of the disease - replies Gattinara - the risk for them is low, but not zero and in fact there are children who, due to Covid, ended up in intensive care ".

Not even the famous one should be underestimated MIS-C, the pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome which can affect various organs and which occurs following Sars-CoV-2 infections, even asymptomatic. "With the vaccine we want the potential risks for the pediatric age to be lowered even more," says Gattinara.

But the reasons for vaccinating children and young people do not end there. According to experts, the administration of the anti-Covid vaccine to the younger sections of the population would also contribute to:

  • achieve herd immunity. Since the pediatric population represents approximately 20% of the general population, it is important to vaccinate minors as well to obtain adequate coverage.
  • avoid variants. Without vaccination in children and young people, the virus would continue to spread and mutate into potentially more dangerous variants.

Vaccinating children and adolescents also means slowing down the circulation of the virus, thus also protecting all those people, such as cancer patients and organ transplant recipients, who have compromised immune defenses. Furthermore, according to what is reported on the website of the National Federation of Orders of Surgeons and Dentists (FNOMCeO), vaccination would avoid the long-term effects of Covid-19 on children, the so-called Long Covid, who with Omicron could have a higher incidence.

As we have seen, therefore, the reasons for involving minors under the age of 18 in the vaccination plan are many, but there are other questions that parents ask themselves, especially relating to the safety of the new vaccines.

Read also: Covid-19 and English variant, are children more contagious?

Do the benefits of the Covid vaccine outweigh the risks?

When it comes to evaluating the safety and efficacy of a vaccine intended for children we tend to be very cautious about avoid exposing the little ones to unnecessary risks. This is why, unlike what is increasingly thought, vaccines are among the safest products in the pharmaceutical industry. "The trials allow us to see if the vaccine gives one valid and persistent immunological response in children, as well as allowing any side effects to be readily identified "explains Gattinara. At the moment, studies show that side effects in boys are very mild and transient as:

  • arm pain;
  • fever;
  • headache;
  • general malaise.

"They are all vaccination-related reactions that tend to disappear in a day or two, but it is normal for them to occur because the vaccine gives an immunological response. The fact that a person has some fever line after the vaccine is a good thing. a good sign "says Prof. Gattinara, President of the Del Paesena Society of Pediatric Infectious Disease.

To treat these annoying side effects, such as fever and arm pain, treatment provides ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Read also: Post vaccine symptoms in children: what they are and what to do if they occur

Pfizer vaccine effective in preventing infection in adolescents

According to the data reported by the manufacturer, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was administered to 1.131 children aged between 12 and 15 years and none of them contracted the infection of Sars-CoV-2.

On the contrary, among the 1.129 boys in the control group, who were injected with a placebo (an inert substance), were registered 18 cases of Covid-19. In adolescents, therefore, the mRNA vaccine seems to work really well. A result completely in line, in terms of the effectiveness of the anti-Covid vaccine, with what is recorded in adults.

How the COVID vaccine for children works

AIFA explains that, in the pediatric range 5-11 years, vaccination will take place in two doses three weeks apart. The available data demonstrate a high level of efficacy and there are currently no warning signs in terms of safety.

In order to avoid possible administration errors, the CTS recommends, for the age group in question, the exclusive use of the ad hoc pediatric formulation, suggesting when possible the adoption of age-appropriate vaccination routes.

Will the Covid vaccine be mandatory?

The question of obligatory nature vaccination is very delicate and often at the center of very heated discussions. "Vaccination should not be done compulsorily - says Prof. Gattinara - because recommendations should be trusted that doctors and experts do to preserve their health.

I have to protect a person through a certain behavior because the data shows me that the behavior is convenient. In fact, there are conditions in which it is scientifically proven that a certain type of attitude is a protective attitude for the health of oneself or of others. Let's take the example of the motorcycle helmet: it is mandatory because it is proven that it protects the wearer, just like today there is strong evidence that the vaccine protects people from the flu or other illnesses. That's why, although I don't like the concept of mandatory, if the data shows that the vaccine is safe, mandatory could be a viable option. "

Read also: Anti-covid vaccines on children: tests are underway

Questions and answers

Does the COVID vaccine change our DNA?

"False" replies the National Institute of Health. "The task of mRNA is only to carry the instructions for the production of proteins from one part of the cell to another, which is why it is called the" messenger. "In this case, the RNA carries the instructions for the production of the protein used. from the virus to attach itself to cells, the Spike protein. Thanks to vaccination, the organism produces specific antibodies before coming into contact with the virus and immunizes itself against it ".


  • consultancy from Guido Castelli Gattinara, President of the Del Paesena Society of Pediatric Infectious Disease and Director of the Child and Adolescent Health Institute of the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital in the city;
  • Covid vaccines and kids: five questions as trials begin, Nature, 2022

  • coronavirus
  • vaccinations for children
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