In Argentina there is a new escalation of people affected by COVID-19. Sublineages of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus are now circulating, which are more contagious than the one that prevailed between November and February last. 82% of the general population has the primary vaccination schedule against the disease, and 47.2% received a booster dose. Nevertheless, girls and boys, who can also get the coronavirus, develop serious symptoms, suffer different consequences and die, are not yet qualified to receive the booster dose.
A study by the Ministry of Health of the province of Buenos Aires revealed that protection of a two-dose vaccine schedule against hospitalization dropped to 58% in children when Omicron became the predominant variant. Therefore, at this stage of the pandemic, a booster dose is considered essential to increase immunity against the new Omicron subvariants.
The vaccination plan against COVID-19 in the country began in December 2020 for prioritized groups such as health personnel and people over 60 years of age. In October of last year, the Federal Health Council, with the endorsement of the National Immunization Commission (CoNaIn), agreed on vaccination with the primary two-dose schedule in girls and boys aged 3 to 11 years. It was after the drug regulatory agency, ANMAT, established that the inoculant from the Chinese company Sinopharm was safe and effective for this group of the population.
The authorization of the application of the two doses at that time was based on the fact that the vaccines were going to protect the child population and minimizing the spread of the virus in the context of the circulation of the variant of concern Delta, which was less contagious than Omicron.
But the rate of dose applications in children was slow. In February, 26% of children had not been accompanied by their parents or caregivers to access the first dose, despite the fact that the inoculants were available throughout the country.
According to Martín Barrionuevo, accountant and provincial senator from Corrientes, who analyzes the open data of the Ministry of Health of the Nation, during the last reported week there were 1,282,394 children aged 3 to 11 years without any dose of vaccine against COVID-19. In other words, 19.8% of the children have not yet accessed any dose. Regarding the first dose, 80.2% of the children have already received it and 63.2% have the complete schedule.
But in the context of the circulation of the Omicron subvariants, the current protection against the virus that boys have could be limited. The booster doses began to be applied in November in the adult population. In February, they were enabled for teenagers. But the children were left out.
From the beginning of the pandemic until the first fortnight of last March, 8% of the total confirmed cases in the country corresponded to children under 17 years of age. The specific lethality of COVID-19 in children and adolescents was 0.05%. 342 children and adolescents died.
Also it is known that a quarter of children with coronavirus infection go on to develop prolonged COVID. But there is still no record of cases in Argentina. Yes, however, there are specific data on one of the sequelae, which is multisystem inflammatory syndrome: it can manifest more than four weeks after the acute phase. 226 cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome have been registered in children and adolescents since 2020.
The Ministry of Health of the province of Buenos Aires carried out a study to evaluate the impact of vaccination in children and adolescents on hospitalizations in the context of the circulation of the Omicron BA variant.1 between December and January last. The study still awaits peer review to be published in the journal The Lancetand was quoted in an article in the journal Nature.
The work includes as co-authors -among others- Soledad González, Santiago Olszevicki, Alejandra Gaiano, Teresa Varela, Leticia Ceriani, Enio Garcia, Alexia Navarro, Elisa Estenssoro, Franco Marsico, and the Buenos Aires Minister of Health Nicolás Kreplak. 1.5 million children and adolescents were included. Within that total, 96,046 had not yet been vaccinated at the time of study closure.
The research team found that the effectiveness of the two doses to prevent serious conditions in children requiring hospitalization reached 83% when both the Delta and Omicron variants were circulating last December. But then the protection dropped to 58% when Omicron became the predominant variant.as explained Soledad González, one of the co-authors Infobae. “This report provides real-time evidence of vaccine protection against COVID-19-associated hospitalizations among children and adolescents aged 3 to 17 years during the Omicron outbreak; the effect of vaccine effectiveness was consistent across all subgroups analyzed,” they wrote.
“However, the effectiveness of the vaccines decreased in the period of dominance of Ómicron, especially in children aged 3 to 11 years. The application of a booster dose in this subgroup deserves consideration”, they highlighted. Namely, the authors consider that it would be necessary to evaluate the application of reinforcement in boys and girls.
Experts in pediatric infectology agreed that it is time to authorize the application of boosters in children. In dialogue with Infobae the doctor Angela Gentile, head of the epidemiology department at Ricardo Gutiérrez Children’s Hospital of the city of Buenos Aires and a member of the National Vaccine Safety Commission, said: “During the last few months, the vaccination rate in children and adolescents with the two-dose primary schedule has improved. But I think the idea of implementing the booster dose against COVID-19 in girls and boys from 3 to 11 years old seems excellent. I would do it with messenger RNA vaccines.”
Meanwhile, the president of the Latin American Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Robert Debbaghe stated when asked by Infobae: “The application of The booster dose will allow children in Argentina to have greater protection to avoid the risk of being hospitalized, and of developing multisystem inflammatory syndrome and other problems generated by prolonged COVID. The booster could be a dose of messenger RNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna.”
According to the Minister of Health of the Nation, Carla Vizzotti, on May 10, the decision to give reinforcements to the children was under study. She said that they were going to analyze Chile’s experience with vaccination of children under 11 years of age. That trans-Andean country authorized vaccination in children with the inoculant sinovac, a development with inactivated virus same as the Synopharmand that’s it is giving boosters with a messenger RNA vaccine.
In other countries, like the United States, the decision on boosters in children is also studied. Last month, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer applied to the US Food and Drug Administration. to approve COVID-19 booster shots for children ages 5-11. He made the request after presenting data showing that the low-dose booster vaccine is safe for children in that age group. In terms of effectiveness, the company proved that a booster dose increased antibodies against the Omicron variant in children 36-fold.
As an argument in favor of boosters, Dr. Jesse Hackell, a pediatrician and chapter president of the American Academy of Pediatrics in New York state, argued: “I still think that we must do everything we can to prevent illness in children, both because some of them will get serious illness and have long-term complications from COVID infection, as because many others will be able to spread the disease to those who may be more exposed.
Hackell explained – in dialogue with Daryl Austin, a journalist for the Today Show program in the United States – that There appears to be a “false dichotomy” on the part of some who oppose COVID-19 vaccines by treating it differently from other diseases that similarly pose small but real risks to children. “It is not that we are going to save the lives of millions of children by vaccinating everyone, but that we vaccinate and oblige to vaccinate against other diseases that are mild for most children, such as chicken pox, mumps, pneumococcus and even polio, because otherwise a small number of children could suffer devastating outcomes and no child should suffer from a preventable disease,” he said.