Covid vaccinations for under-12s now considered “fundamental” by European Medicines Agency

Vaccination of the under-12s against Covid-19 is (suddenly) considered “fundamental” by the European Medicines Agency, EMA.

Notwithstanding that the current vaccines do not protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection ; that people fully-vaccinated can still end up in hospital; can still die; that children tend in the main not to be affected by it (to the extent that specialists in the UK have still not recommended the jabs for 12-15 year olds), EMA has decided that extending them to children under the age of 12 “is crucial to reduce contagion and combat the Delta variant”.

Lusa has published an interview with EMA’s vaccine strategist Marco Cavaleri today – just as national attentions are on the lying in State and imminent funeral of one of Portugal’s most-revered political icons, and global focus is on the 20th anniversary commemorations of 9/11 in New York.

At no time does the text query Mr Cavaleri’s thinking, coming as it does hot-on-the-heels of WHO Europe admitting that the organisation is now “pessimistic that the vaccines can halt the pandemic” (click here).

Nor does it refer to the explanation given by Portugal’s vaccine strategist Luís Graça on why the country opted to start vaccinating 12-15 year olds.

Dr Graça said in a press conference in the company of DGS health director Graça Freitas, that the “best benefit” of the decision was “the benefit of mental health well-being, social well-being and educational well-being” (click here).

He did not once say the 12-15 year olds actually needed the vaccine in order not to suffer serious consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection, because instances where this has happened have been extremely rare.

Indeed, since the pandemic began only five children/ teens have died in Portugal – all of them compromised by other serious underlying health issues.

Yet now, seemingly ‘out-of-the-blue’ and at a moment when the nation truly is looking elsewhere, the vaccination of healthy children under the age of 12 is suddenly considered ‘fundamental’.

The problem with stories coming out on what should (or should not) happen is that they are often presented in a very ‘national way’: little is explained about countries that have decided up till now NOT to vaccinate children – nor why they have made their decisions.

JAVI – the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – has been very clear: it won’t sanction the use of the Covid vaccines on healthy children as there simply is no need for them.

Any ‘gain’ would be ‘marginal’ – and would have to be set against the lack of data on long-term health consequences of being pressured to take up vaccines (that do not guarantee an end to the passing of infection, nor the contraction thereof).

Another curious aspect of this story is which outlets have chosen to repeat it: Lusa is a syndicated service. Normally all media outlets pick up Lusa texts. So far only Jornal de Notícias is running with this story – while Público is reporting on the fact that the United States wants to start vaccinating all children over the age of five by October…

There is also the fact that at no point in the Lusa article does any WHO Europe source actually use the word featured in the headline: both “fundamental” and “crucial” are provided by Lusa.

All Marco Cavaleri actually tells the news agency is: “We will to continue to follow this subject and try and understand if these vaccines can be used in children under the age of 12”.

Thus there is a distinctly manufactured – even hollow – feeling to this text today (which could be why other media outlets have not yet picked it up).

Marco Cavaleri refers to the situation in the United States where he says there has been a “great increase in hospitalisations affecting mainly unvaccinated adolescents”.

But this has not been the case even with the Delta variant in 100% transmission in Portugal, or elsewhere in Europe – hence the reference to America to justify suddenly rolling out the vaccines to age groups whose immune systems are still developing raises questions.

Certainly, readers given space to comment on articles have been quick to highlight the discrepancies.

Said one: “the vaccines were developed with the original variant. They haven’t been updated since then for the Delta. We know that the Delta variant has the capacity to escape the vaccine. In Portugal the percentage (of children affected) since the beginning is low. And now vaccinating under the age of 12 is fundamental?!!!”

Another refers to what has demonstrably happened in countries that have adhered en-masse to these new vaccines.

“In Israel they are already on the 4th dose, and even so Israelis are not even allowed to enter Portugal…”

If nothing else this story prepares the way for what could be coming down the line once Portugal’s electioneering frenzy is over, and we are all looking with more focus towards the autumn (click here).

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com