The World Health Organization (WHO) warns of the risk of “absolute catastrophe” if the dangerous delay in vaccinating children due to the Covid-19 pandemic is not recovered and if health restrictions are lifted too quickly. “In 2021, we have the potential for absolute catastrophe“, the doctor warned today Kate O’Brien, director of the WHO immunization department in Geneva. The pandemic has in fact forced to divert resources and personnel towards the fight against Covid, and many health services have had to close or reduce the hours.
The WHO alarm
People were also reluctant to move out of fear of contamination when containment measures did not prohibit them. Unprotected children and the too rapid lifting of health restrictions against Covid – which have also partially protected some childhood diseases – are already having their effects, with measles outbreaks in Pakistan for example, the WHO official said. These two factors combined are “the absolute catastrophe against which we are sounding the alarm now, because we must act now to protect these children, ”O’Brien stressed.
Vaccinations for children around the world
Pediatric vaccines are a controversial topic, no wonder currently there is no uniform strategy in the western world as regards the administration of the anti-covid serum . Some countries are administering them (USA, Israel, Italy), while others have limits them only to children with serious previous pathologies – neurological disabilities, respiratory problems -, thus excluding healthy children (Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Belgium). To these must be added a third way, that of the countries that have chosen to completely exclude children (Portugal, Ireland, Norway, Iceland).
What the experts say
Vaccinating the little ones is the only way to get the much-needed herd immunity, says WHO. But the experts are divided. Dominic Wilkinson e Andrew Pollard, professors of the University of Oxford, e Ilora Finlay of Cardiff University, are against because according to them it is still unclear whether the benefits outweigh the risks. On the opposite barricade Lisa Forsberg of the University of Oxford e Anthony Skelton of the University of Western Ontario, according to which lingering would be wrong because vaccinating children would protect them from the disease and lead to the exit of the pandemic tunnel.
The positions of the Italian virologists
The positions are not all aligned, even in Italy. Alberto Villani, director of the Department of Emergency, Acceptance and General Pediatrics at the Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital in Rome, he also said children under 12 have “the right to be protected. The authorization procedures with the regulatory bodies are already at an advanced stage and it is likely that the 6-12 vaccine will be available in a few months, perhaps as early as autumn “. “Up to the age of 18, the risks associated with Covid are irrelevant”, These are the words of Franco Locatelli, president of the Superior Health Council, a few weeks ago. Israel is one of the countries with the highest percentage of vaccinated people in the world, even with respect to pediatric administrations, and can be a point of reference for understanding what could also happen in Italy. Andrea Crisanti, Professor of Microbiology and Clinical Microbiology at the University of Padua, according to whom it would be appropriate to be more cautious. In fact, Crisanti recalled that “it is right to always make a cost-benefit ratio. Now trials are being carried out on younger people, positive things are emerging and things that suggest greater attention, we just have to wait “. Meanwhile, by the end of 2021, Pfizer-BioNTech could request the go-ahead, even for the very young, i.e. for children aged 6 months to 2 years..
Vaccine reservations in Italy
In our country practically all the Italian regions have started vaccination reservations for children from 12 years old. With some exceptions (Marche, Piedmont and Tuscany at the moment only accept bookings from 16 years of age) we also proceed with vaccinations for the younger population. According to the numbers of the Government, however, we are far from the desired objectives: currently only 40.5% of the population over 12 has completed the vaccination cycle. A percentage still too low, for this reason scientific societies take the field with communications to citizens and official recommendations.