Norway’s National Institute of Public Health (FHI) is currently in the process of assessing whether children and young people should be included in the national vaccination programme.
First, the age bracket of 16–17 will be assessed, followed by the age group between 12 and 15.
Yet, professor and author Anne Spurkland, an expert on the immune system at the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, has no doubts that this should be the case. According to Spurkland, the vaccination of children would be beneficial both for herd immunity and for the children themselves.
“Children should be vaccinated. Why should children get the infection when we have the vaccine? It is not the case that having infections makes you healthier. The immune system does not need infections”, Spurkland told the newspaper Verdens Gang.
The professor pointed out that around 1 in 3,000 children come down with the Multiorgan Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) from COVID-19.
“Children become much less ill, but some get the severe inflammatory condition MISC in the wake of the infection. It is currently being discussed whether the virus has the ability to activate certain immune cells for no reason. Another possibility is that the virus exploits congenital but hitherto unknown holes in the child’s immune system. Children are mostly protected from consequences, but some still get the inflammatory condition, and it is serious enough. There have also been children who have died”, Spurkland said.
An important principle for the FHI is that children should not get sicker from the vaccine than from the disease itself. According to Spurkland, the children’s immune systems are still maturing, which is why it’s not a given that they will experience the same side effects as adults. However, the exact dose of the vaccine for children may be tweaked.
“There are many factors that must be considered if a vaccine is to be offered to healthy young people”, FHI chief physician Margrethe Greve-Isdahl told Verdens Gang. According to her, the FHI must weigh vaccinating the age group to avoid rare cases of serious infection against the “limited preliminary experience and knowledge one has about the vaccines used in the age group”.
Denmark is among the countries that have decided that they want to vaccinate children starting from age 12 and over. Vaccination of young people up to the age of 16 is already underway. Denmark has calculated that childhood vaccination would give an additional immunity of 4 percent, which is therefore worth it.