Franco Locatelli, coordinator of the Cts – Ansa
“Vaccinate children” so as not to go back. To protect them, protecting their physical and mental health, their social contacts. And because all the data, all the scientific evidence tells us it’s safe to do so. The coordinator of the CTS, Franco Locatelli, lists the reasons why parents should decide for the administration on the little ones.
Professor, children are paying the highest price in terms of infections in this fourth wave. Because?
In the meantime, I would like to start with a general observation, which deserves to be strongly reiterated. The epidemiological situation in Italy is among the most favorable in the entire continent and this has been achieved thanks to the high percentages of vaccinations and the fact that the precautionary measures have been maintained in the right time and in the right ways: I am thinking, for example, of the obligation to wear masks indoors and even outdoors in case of crowds. At this moment the age group between 6 and 11 years is the one that shows the greatest increase in terms of cumulative incidence compared to the others: the data can be interpreted in the light of the fact that precisely for this age group – where activity school and out of school facilitate a spread of Coronavirus – vaccination offer has not started.
So, vaccinate. This possibility, scheduled for the end of the month also in Italy, creates many concerns among parents: why should we vaccinate children?
First: to preserve their health. And this even if the disease develops severely in children only in rare cases. With Covid, children get sick and Covid can bring with it the multisystem inflammatory syndrome (Mis-C) and protracted consequences, known as Long Covid. The second reason, equally important: to protect their attendance at school, as well as their playful-recreational spaces and social contacts. Their limitation would have a negative impact on the psychic development and on that of the personality of future generations. Third and final reason: vaccinating them also protects their cohabitants, especially fragile ones, such as grandparents.
Aifa has accustomed us to very fast approvals after the EMA decisions on vaccines. Why hasn’t the one about children arrived yet? Are they expecting more certainties?
Absolutely not. Aifa, simply, had already scheduled its meetings and did not change the program since there are still no supplies of vaccines in the pediatric formulation, which provides a dosage of 10 micrograms (i.e. one third compared to the adult doses): they will not available until the days before Christmas. The decision, however, will come soon. As for waiting, I hear and see written in some newspapers that it would make sense to “wait for the results” of vaccinations on children in the US and Israel before proceeding with those of one’s own children. I consider it a wrong and ethically questionable position. Imagine what would happen if everyone made this choice.
“Pfizer was administered to 3 million and 330 thousand children between 12 and 19 years in Italy and no significant adverse events were found”. Myocarditis? “The data indicate a lower incidence in younger children.” The role of pediatricians and “dedicated” paths in the hubs
One of the recurring arguments for this choice is that the anti-Covid vaccine was not tested on a large enough number of children during the trials: Pfizer carried them out on a sample of about 3 thousand babies.
Who says this does not know the procedures of pediatric trials. In Europe the Pediatric investigation plan (Pip), that is the plan that is elaborated by the companies that develop drugs, is preliminarily submitted to the evaluation of the regulatory agencies. In other words, it is the agencies that assess whether the sample size envisaged in the trials is adequate. I find it unique to question the credibility and impartiality of regulatory agencies. Pfizer’s vaccine has been administered to billions of people between adults and adolescents: in Italy alone, in the age group between 12 and 19 years, over 3 million and 330 thousand children have received it. The pharmacovigilance system did not find any significant adverse events, confirming a largely favorable safety profile. As for myocarditis and pericarditis, the data reported so far indicate a lower incidence in younger children. In older children, in any case, we are talking about forms of medium clinical commitment, which are resolved in a short time.
Will the children take the third dose?
Meanwhile, they will do the first and second after three weeks. For the third we have to wait to see the response of their immune system. They could respond more brilliantly to the vaccination stimulus: let’s think of the flu, in this case the response to the flu vaccination is markedly higher than in adults.
Will they be vaccinated in the hubs, in the same way as adults?
Paths should be devised that make everything more comfortable and reassuring, not so much for children of 10 or 11 years, but for the little ones. And pediatricians of free choice will have to be involved. The machine is getting ready: the weeks that separate us from the start of the vaccinations will help us to better prepare for this moment.
What membership do you expect?
I expect a great response: the parents are the same as the Italians who have been vaccinated in recent months, they trust science and even more so they must trust now. Vaccinating your children, however, is above all a great act of love: it means protecting them from forms of serious pathologies, preventing the dangers they can run and protecting their sociality.
Will the epidemiological curve bend again with vaccinated children? And how much?
Vaccination of the little ones will help reduce viral circulation: the ECDC has published models that estimate this reduction to be around 11%. But I want to reiterate: it is not the reason to vaccinate them.
Professor, should the Omicron variant worry us?
To date, the evidence coming from the sequencing of South Africa is that this variant has quickly replaced the Delta. Much faster than Delta did with Alfa: moreover, cases in that country increased by 258%. There is, therefore, evidence of greater contagiousness. And whether the variant has a greater, lesser or equal capacity to cause serious disease and whether the sensitivity of vaccines is lower, we do not yet know. Until now, however, it should be remembered, no variant that has emerged has been shown to cause a significant reduction in the efficacy of vaccines and it is unlikely that this will also happen for the Omicron variant.
Do you agree with the government’s choice on the Super Green pass? Will it help slow down the effects of the fourth wave?
I totally share it. It is a decision that goes in the direction of maximum caution, protecting not only health, but also productive activities, not blocking the economic recovery. And this choice will also have an impact on the contagion curve.