Too early to vaccinate children 12-16, UMC Utrecht pediatrician says

UTRECHT - UMC Utrecht pediatrician Patricia Bruijning suggested it may still be too early to vaccinate children from 12 through 15 years of age in the Netherlands, Volkskrant reported. Children as young as 12 in the United States started receiving Pfizer/BioNTech jab on Thursday after the American regulator authorized the use.

"I'm certainly not ready to say now that we have to vaccinate all our teenagers. I am afraid that you would encounter a lot of resistance, which does not seem sensible to me at this stage," said Bruijning.

Pfizer/BioNTech was approved in the US for this age group after a study of 2,260 participants found that side effects in adolescents were consistent with those reported by people aged 16 and up, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "The most commonly reported side effects in the adolescent clinical trial participants, which typically lasted 1-3 days, were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain," the FDA wrote in a statement about its approval.

Eighteen cases of Covid-19 were reported among the 1,129 participants that were given a placebo. After finding that the vaccine was highly effective in preventing the illness in this age group, Pfizer/BioNTech started investigating whether the jab can also be safely used with children between 2 and 11 years of age. Moderna and AstraZeneca have also extended their vaccine trials in the US and UK to children as young as 6 months old.

In the Netherlands, very little research on this matter has been carried out so far. Interim research previously showed the vaccine produced such a high level of antibodies in children that even a half a dose could offer enough protection, Bruijning said.

"Let's first provide more research and more data, and see what is happening in other countries where they are already a bit further, to make a good decision," she said.

One of the possible decisions the Netherlands could take would be to make the vaccine available to children of vulnerable parents, to prevent them from contracting the virus in a school setting and passing it on to their parents. When doing so, the attention would mainly need to be paid to the extent to which the virus can harm children themselves, Bruijning explained. 

"We can't just vaccinate children because it helps adults. We are really not used to that in the Netherlands," she concluded.

Through May 14, of the four vaccines used in the European Union, only the Pfizer product is authorized for anyone younger than 18. Although it can be used with 16 and 17 year olds, the Netherlands has only authorized this for people that age who are at a higher risk of experiencing severe health issues if they develop Covid-19.

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