Vaccinating children under 11 against Covid is “a necessity”, the French prime minister has said, but the French paediatric society has suggested that the “benefits will be modest at best”.
So far, France has confirmed that vulnerable children or those with vulnerable adults in their households will be eligible for vaccination from December 15. For all other children, vaccination could start from December 20, but nothing has yet been confirmed for this second group.
Yet, Jean Castex spoke to France Bleu Alsace on December 11, and said: “Vaccinating children [aged 5 to 11] is a necessity.
“They spread the virus, I am a living example of that. My 11-year-old daughter gave me the virus a few weeks ago. I was vaccinated, so I only had an extremely light form, but there you go. So yes, vaccinating children is a necessity.”
Mr Castex tested positive for the virus on November 23.
The prime minister said that children who have underlying conditions or other risk factors should be vaccinated as a priority, including those who have vulnerable adults in their household or among their parents or legal guardians. These will be eligible for vaccination from Wednesday, December 15.
The government’s council for the vaccination strategy has said it is broadly in favour of vaccinating children, “with some conditions”.
However, Christele Gras-Le Guen, the president of paediatric association la société française de pédiatrie, told FranceInfo that the benefits of vaccination against Covid-19 for children would be “modest”.
She said: “We must firstly protect adults as a priority, to protect against severe forms [of the illness].
“We have clearly identified children for whom there is an undeniable benefit to protect against severe forms of Covid. The question of other children is completely different, as most of them get a very benign form of the illness in the vast majority of cases.”
She said: “We want to be sure that the vaccine will not have any side effects, and require an even higher level of safety for the vaccine than usual, given the mild effect of the disease in children.”
Asked whether Mr Castex’s stance on vaccinating children was “really of medical interest or just part of a political game”, Ms Gras-Le Guen conceded that “there is interest in limiting the contagion”.
She said: “Why not limit the spread of the virus by vaccinating young children?... But the benefits of vaccination of children will be modest given the way the virus shows up in children of this age group.”
Ms Gras-Le Guen said that France was keeping close watch on the situation in the US, where children have been eligible for vaccination since the start of November.
She said: “We plan to observe what happens in the US, where the burden of the disease is greater…Americans are in the process of administering the second dose of vaccine in this age group and so we are waiting to see if any side effects emerge.
“However, the second dose programme is just starting in the US and so we don't have that data yet.”
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