DGS approves roll-out of Covid vaccines for five to 11 year olds

Portugal’s DGS health authority has officially announced the roll-out of Covid vaccines in the five to 11 year age groups.

The last few days have seen the build up to this announcement take almost theatrical proportions.

Hours before this afternoon’s announcement, media channels were reporting that one in every 100 children aged between five and 11 “will be infected with Covid-19 by next week”.

The children will not in fact be infected with Covid-19. If they indeed are infected it will be with SARS-CoV-2 – a virus that rarely affects children in this age group, and even more rarely results in Covid-19.

But these are the headlines we are living with these days.

There has been intense focus on the 5-11 year age bracket recently, with repeated warnings of how many infections are being flagged in unvaccinated children.

There has been no reference to the advice of virologist Pedro Simas saying “exaggerated focus” has been put on the number of infections (click here).

Indeed, Simas has explained that there is little point worrying about infections as the bulk of the population is protected against the worst effects of the virus – and those that aren’t, young children, are unlikely to suffer from it at all.

Nonetheless, pressure has been building for weeks for today’s announcement.

Politicians have shown they want children vaccinated (or protected, as they refer to the vaccinations), particularly as they feel that by being vaccinated children will be assured no break in their education (by being sent into isolation in the event of virus outbreaks); and the condition will encourage good mental health.

A communiqué issued by the DGS this afternoon explains that the vaccine to be used will be Comirnaty, the vaccine produced by Pfizer/BioNTech. 

Comirnaty has been approved by EMA, the European Medicines Authority which says, on its website, that “the impact of vaccination with Comirnaty on the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the community is not yet known. It is not yet known how much vaccinated people may still be able to carry and spread the virus”.

This is relevant when considering the DGS is expected to alter rules for self-isolation during virus outbreaks in schools to allow vaccinated pupils to keep coming to classes while non-vaccinated will be expected to spend a period of quarantine – irrespective of any test results. 

The DGS statement this afternoon stresses “the number of new cases of Covid-19 (actually meaning SARS-CoV-2, not Covid-19) in children has been increasing” and in spite of the illness generally being light (if not non-existent) “there are serious forms of Covid-19 in children”.

This is a hugely divisive issue, and for this reason the DGS will be holding a press conference on the subject on Friday.

No vaccinations will be going ahead yet – and the first children eligible will be those with chronic diseases.

The statement adds that the Vaccine Technical Commission will be “accompanying the epidemiological situation, scientific evidence and recommendations of Member States. The recommendation could be altered whenever the situation justifies, namely in case more data becomes known on new variants”.

Spain also announced the vaccination of children over the age of 5 today. It is understood, Spain will be starting its programme of vaccinations on December 15.