Portuguese immunologist Manuel Santos Rosa has been given column inches this afternoon defending the importance of vaccinating children and young people.
Just as the story went out, President Marcelo was also talking of the urgency for young people to ‘make the vaccination process easier’ by opting to get jabbed as soon as possible.
These are huge issues, adding to the government’s message that authorities are ‘losing control of the pandemic’ (click here).
But they are also very sweeping in that doctors and experts elsewhere argue that children not only do not need the vaccine, it could be dangerous to give it to them (click here).
In the UK, the Hart Group insists it would be “irresponsible and unethical” to vaccinate children on the basis of what is known right now about the very new vaccine technology.
“Children have a lifetime ahead of them, and their immunological and neurological systems are still in development, making them potentially more vulnerable to adverse effects than adults”, they state in a the letter addressed to Dr June Raine, Chief Executive of the UK’s medicines regulatory body. “A number of specific concerns have been raised already, including autoimmune disease and possible effects on placentation and fertility. A recently published paper raised the possibility that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines could trigger prion-based, neurodegenerative disease. All potential risks, known and unknown, must be balanced against risks of COVID-19 itself, so a very different benefit/risk balance will apply to children than to adults”.
Here in Portugal, Professor Santos Rosa’s argument is that children are “vehicles for the propagation of the virus” – meaning the virus will remain in circulation longer and “independent of elderly people having been vaccinated, this could lead to situations of internment that could be serious because there could be a immunosuppressed elderly person, or one that hasn’t responded well to the vaccine, who could become infected and the end situation could be fatal”.
The immunologist clearly believes that any risks to the health of developing children should be considered secondary to the risks they could pose to immunosuppressed seniors.
But will parents see it this way?
Says Diário de Notícias, “the professor stresses that we all need to understand that herd immunity depends on the country, the region, the population, even the immune status of the population and not just on the number of people vaccinated. Therefore the percentage of those that have been vaccinated may have to be much higher than the 70% defined for Portugal and indeed Europe”.
Children and young people make up 30% of the population, says Santos Rosa, ergo “if we don’t vaccinate children and young people we are at the limit of achieving such group immunity, because this group will always be a vehicle for the transmission of the virus”.
In terms of mediatic drama, the last few days have been full of it. The pressure in the press for Portuguese people to accept that new restrictions ‘are vital’; ‘will be coming’; ‘must be complied with’ has been building since last Friday.
But this issue is not cut and dried. In the UK, for example, the BBC reports that “a decision to vaccinate all 12-17 year old children against Covid is unlikely to be recommended by UK vaccine experts imminently”.
It may be because “JCVI – the committee of UK vaccine experts which advises the government on the best approach … may be waiting for more safety data on children who have been vaccinated in other countries, such as the US and Israel, before making its decision”, says the broadcaster.
This far there appears to be no accepted policy in Portugal about vaccinating children, though today’s interview may be an attempt to start the ball rolling.
Even the World Health Organisation states quite clearly “Children should not be vaccinated for the moment” (click here) adding: “There is not yet enough evidence on the use of vaccines against COVID-19 in children to make recommendations for children to be vaccinated against COVID-19”.