Covid vaccine from 12 years old: pediatricians’ answers to the most common doubts

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After the authorization of the European Commission and Aifa, in Italy the Covid vaccine for boys (Pfizer-BioNtech) a partire from 12 years. The reservations for this age group they are currently open only in four regions – Lombardy, Veneto, Campania and Calabria – but the news has already generated, as often happens, conflicting opinions e not a few doubts on the part of the parents.

Even those who have undergone the anti Covid vaccine without any hesitation, in fact, when they find themselves in having to make this choice for their children, may show some perplexity. The questions there are many: the vaccine it’s really safe for the guys? That side effects can have on the little ones? There is no risk that the boys will end up act as “guinea pigs” for science?

To answer the most common doubts of parents, we asked a few questions to Dr. Elena Bozzola, National Councilor and Secretary of the Italian Society of Pediatrics.

Doctor, why is it important to vaccinate even the youngest ones?

“Certainly with a view to herd immunity but not only. We must think that the more vaccination coverage increases throughout the Italian territory, the lower the circulation of the virus. However, we don’t vaccinate our teenagers just to protect others but also and above all for themselves. It is true that the incidence of Coronavirus-related disease is lower in younger people but we also know that zero risk does not exist. Unfortunately, there have also been deaths among young people and children in Italy and it has not always been a question of frail minors or with previous pathologies. Not to mention that, even after a symptomatic or paucisymptomatic episode of Covid infection, the so-called Mis-C, a form of inflammatory disease involving multiple essential organs and which can lead to long hospital stays or, in severe cases, life threatening. To this is added an important fact: in Italy there are 10 million adolescents, of these one in 10 is a fragile person who therefore has a greater risk than the others of contracting severe forms of the disease. These are the main reasons why we pediatricians also recommend vaccination to healthy adolescents ».

What are the vaccine side effects found in this age group?

«The side effects are comparable to those found in adults and they are those common to many other vaccinations that we now know. It is mostly about fever, pain at the point of administration, fatigue, mild asthenia in the next days. Side effects far lower than the benefits given by vaccination which has a coverage that is close to 100% against severe forms and death. We must also remember that Covid has brought what I call one “Second pandemic” for young people: unfortunately we have observed a higher incidence of eating disorders, severe stress, depression, self-harm, high risk of suicide, video game addiction. THE guys have the right to return to a normal life, to hang out with each other, to go out and be together but in safety. Security that only the vaccine can give».

Parents are also worried about the long-term effects of the vaccine that may not yet be known. How to reassure them?

“We now only have short-term trials, however we know the composition of the vaccine and we know that it does not contain substances that can be defined as pre-carcinogenic or in any way harmful to the body. It is also good to keep in mind that the vaccine, even once placed on the market, it is constantly studied and monitored. There is currently no information that can make us think of a risk condition for the youngest: it is the same vaccine used for adults, now for more than a year, if we also count the experience of the United States. Instead, it should be the ones who worry long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection. In fact, the post Covid syndrome also affects children, with consequences ranging from respiratory difficulties to neurological problems, up to Mis-C, which occurs when the infection seems to have passed and it is thought to be out of danger “.

It is learned from a communicated by Aifa that the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee of theEma is evaluating very rare cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) e pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane around the heart) that occurred after vaccination with Comirnaty, especially in people under the age of 30. What do we know today?

«To date we know that these pathologies they are not considered among the adverse events correlated with certainty to vaccination. In the few cases where inflammation of the heart muscle has occurred in immunized subjects, the condition was mild and resolved within a short time. In addition, it is important to point out that a definite correlation with the vaccine has not been demonstrated. Instead, we know the cardiac complications associated with Covid. Unfortunately, even those vaccines administered to children have been circulating for decades about serious side effects that still worry some parents today. I believe it is essential to carry out proper counseling for families. As pediatricians we are already receiving many phone calls from parents worried about the idea that their children could become “guinea pigs” for science. The experimentation of the vaccine has already taken place and when it is approved by Ema and Aifa it means that it is safe. You have to think that being vaccinated is a privilege, not a sacrifice, not an experiment ».

What information relating to children’s health should be reported in the medical history? Are there any cases in which it is better to avoid the vaccine?

«The medical history is carried out very meticulously by the doctors, exactly as it happens for adults. They come carefully evaluate the condition of the subject, such as any predisposition to anaphylaxis or allergic reactions to previous vaccines. However, it must be said that too allergy sufferers can be given the vaccine, with a longer surveillance period. It is the doctor who carefully evaluates any alarm bells for a possible reaction ».

What role do pediatricians play? Will they be administering the vaccines for this age group?

“There are ministerial negotiations underway and there will probably be substantial differences from region to region. We hope for the massive participation of family pediatricians because parents usually feel more reassured by the presence of a doctor who already knows the child and with whom there is already a relationship of trust. In any case, whether it is done by the family pediatrician rather than in the hospital or at the ASL, the important thing is that the vaccination is carried out Why even children get sick, they too can be reservoirs of infection but above all they too they have a right to be healthy and not to contract diseases ».

To date, the only vaccine available for the 12-15 age group is Comirnaty. At what point are the trials of other vaccines for young people?

«Modern it has already been tested for the age group 12-17 on 3700 adolescents and has given excellent results. The experiments of Pfizer even on the very young ones starting from 6 months, also in this case with excellent results. We hope that soon we will be able to count on positive data that will allow us to vaccinate even the smallest».

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