The CDC study showed that vaccinated children aged 5 to 11 – the youngest and most recently vaccinated group – were about 46% less likely to have Covid-19, resulting in care in an emergency clinic or emergency room compared to children who were unvaccinated.
However, the new study showed that vaccinated schoolchildren continued to be less likely to be hospitalized for their infections than children who were unvaccinated. Out of nearly 1,700 hospital admissions, 59 unvaccinated children aged 5 to 11 were admitted to the hospital after testing positive for Covid-19, and only two were vaccinated. The study did not have enough cases to accurately assess the efficacy of the vaccine against hospitalization in this age group.
The new study comes just a day after new data from the New York State Department of Health also found that vaccine protection against Covid-19 dropped significantly for children during the Omicron wave.
The Pfizer vaccine is the only Covid-19 vaccine approved for persons under 18 years of age.
Dr. Nicola Klein, an author of the study published Tuesday, believes the decline in vaccine efficacy in the younger age group was not due to the dose being too low or that there was a large difference in response to the vaccines by age; she says this is just the rapid development of the virus.
“It’s a little bit discouraging, but I think we also need to keep in mind that one of the complexities here is that because children started getting vaccinated last year, it coincides with when the Omicron variant started. to circulate, “said Klein, director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center.
The surveys are also coming, just as school districts around the country have started lifting mask mandates for students, and some parents and experts are wondering if this is the right time to ease child protection.
“I do not think it’s time to go free for everyone yet, but what you know, if you know everyone around you is vaccinated, then I think you can relax a little more,” said Dr. Robert Frenck, director of the Vaccine Research Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Ohio. Frenck was not involved in the new research.
“So they do not end up in the hospital themselves, but they come home to grandma and grandpa, who may be immunocompromised, and their immune system is not working so well, and they give it to them. That would also be my concern. As far as that is concerned. people just say, oh, it’s all over, we can go back to normal. We’re not quite there yet. “
About 26% of children ages 5 to 11 and 58% of those ages 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the CDC.
Protection for teens and teens
Young people aged 12 to 17 – who receive a dose of the Pfizer vaccine that is three times higher than the shots for younger children – had better protection against most circulating variants, the new study found, but this protection fell sharply with time and arrival of the Omicron variant.
Five months or more after a second dose, children in this age group had no significant protection against Omicron infections, which warranted a trip to the emergency room or emergency room. About a week after a booster shot, most of their protection appeared to have been restored.
Reinforced teens aged 16 to 18 years were about 81% less likely to see a doctor for Covid-19.
During the entire 11 months of the study, fully vaccinated adolescents – aged 12 to 15 – 83% were less likely to be seen for Covid-19 in the emergency room or emergency room and 92% less likely to be admitted up to 5 months after their second dose. . After 5 months, vaccine protection dropped to only 38% for emergency room or clinic visits and 73% for admissions in this age group.
Older teens aged 16 to 17 were 76% less likely to be seen for Covid-19 in an emergency room or emergency treatment if the first five months after their second dose and 94% less likely to be admitted. After 5 months, their protection dropped to 46% for clinic visits and 88% for hospitalizations.
Boosters in the future?
The study was observational, meaning that the authors could not prove cause and effect. Although the data were adjusted to try to take into account significant differences between children who were vaccinated and those who were not vaccinated, the researchers say there could have been differences between these groups – such as the likelihood of masking or physical distance – that could have been affected by their results.
Still, the researchers note that there is strong real-world data on how well the vaccines protect children. They say children need to keep up to date with their Covid-19 vaccines, including boosters for all eligible children. Currently, this group of young people is aged 12 to 18 years.
Klein said she thinks it is reasonable that boosters may soon be recommended for younger children as well.
“We have pretty good evidence that the booster really increased protection for 16- to 17-year-olds, and I think it’s shown pretty nicely in the newspaper, and I do not think it’s unreasonable to expect it to be down to the way for 5 to 11-year-olds, “Klein said. “It’s definitely something worth considering.”
Other experts who were not involved in the study agree.
“We know from the adults that the third dose did a lot. The third dose increased the effectiveness of the vaccine against Omicron, it boosts all antibodies, including the key antibodies that still had some cross-ability to neutralize Omicron,” said Dr. Jennifer Nayak, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
“So yes, also for the children, I think the third dose can be really important as the virus moves away from the protective immune response that was established by the vaccine,” Nayak said.
A booster dose for elementary school-aged children is probably still months away. Pfizer is currently testing a booster dose for this age group, according to a spokesman.
Experts who reviewed the studies but did not participate in the research said they should not make parents lose faith in the vaccines.
“This is what you would expect in the form of mild illness,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Training Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He pointed out that children can get Covid-19 even if they are vaccinated, but the vaccines will keep them from the worst damage from the virus.
“The goal of this vaccine is to prevent serious illness,” said Offit, who says both studies show that the vaccines continue to keep children out of the hospital.
What’s more, says Offit, these studies compare vaccinated children with those who are unvaccinated, but they do not take into account children who may have already been infected with the virus and have some antibodies against future infection.
“So people who are considered unvaccinated can still be protected at some level, which means your effectiveness rate is not going to look that good,” he said. “None of these things get considered when doing that kind of research, so I think they tend to be falsely judgmental of the vaccine.”