- The United Kingdom has now recommended the vaccine for children aged 12-15 following advice from its chief medical officers, placing it in line with the US and many other European countries, which have been inoculating this age group for months. The chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, said on Monday that it is hoped this measure will reduce the spread of Covid in schools, although he said vaccinations would not eliminate it and that policies to minimize transmission should be kept in place.
- The UK’s new guidance has reinvigorated a debate on consent, especially when a parent and child disagree. While parents in the UK generally need to authorize vaccination for children under 16, children can overrule vaccine-hesitant parents if a clinician considers them “competent” to do so.
- In the US, most children can’t take that power into their hands, with 41 states requiring parental consent for children under 18 to be vaccinated. Nebraska requires parental consent until the age of 19. Five states do have a “mature minor doctrine,” meaning that there is no specific age requirement, with providers able to decide if a minor possesses the maturity to consent themselves. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Sunday that if more people aren’t persuaded to get vaccinated by messaging from health officials and “trusted political messengers,” additional mandates from schools and businesses may be necessary. Last week, US President Joe Biden announced vaccine requirements that include a mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees to require vaccination or regular testing.
- American children between 5 and 11 could get the green light for vaccines from the US Food and Drug Administration sometime this fall, according to Fauci. Pfizer’s CEO said Tuesday that the company plans to submit data on its vaccine from studies involving that age group by the end of this month.
- Meanwhile, the debate on booster shots continues. Three separate articles published last week in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report suggest that we don’t need them, and a group of international vaccine scientists say the current evidence does not appear to support a need for booster shots in the general public. But a study from Israel, where the third shot has already been rolled out, indicated that the vaccines’ power to keep people from getting very sick with Covid-19 diminished over time. Last month, Biden announced his administration’s intention to start a booster program by September 20, despite WHO’s call for nations to wait until vaccines are more widely available around the world.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: Why does approval of Covid vaccines for younger children need more time?
A: Millions of adults have been safely and effectively vaccinated against Covid-19, but those outcomes are not a substitute for the research needed in kids.
Dr. James Versalovic, interim pediatrician-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital, explains why. “As we are fond of saying in pediatrics: Children are not small adults. Children are children,” he said. “Their bodies are developing and will react differently, and we need to treat them differently.”
For people as young as 12, vaccine makers built off the adult trials with an approach known as “immunobridging,” a process that looks for an immune response in children that is similar to adults.
The data showed that for this age group, the immune response was the equivalent of adults’.
READS OF THE WEEK
Will Biden’s vaccine mandates work? France’s experiment may provide clues
As of August 1, anyone without a “health pass” showing proof of their vaccination status, or a recent negative test, would not be able to enter bars and cafes, or travel long distances by train. Health care workers — a group of roughly 2.7 million people in France — who are not vaccinated face being fired or suspended without pay.
Despite some early opposition, Macron’s gamble looks to be reaping significant rewards. Immediately following his speech on July 12, there was a spike in vaccination appointments in France. Thanks in part to its swelling vaccination rate — along with a massive increase in testing linked to the Covid pass, and the reintroduction of mask mandates in regions badly hit by the Delta variant — mainland France managed to largely sidestep the fourth wave that swept through Europe and the US. A month into France’s new health pass regime, data from the country’s health agency show an overall decline in hospital and ICU admissions since the summer highs.
China’s strict 21 day quarantine under question after new outbreak
A man who completed 21 days of mandatory quarantine upon returning to China from overseas has been identified as the likely source of a new outbreak, raising questions over the sustainability of the country’s zero-Covid strategy, among the strictest in the world, Nectar Gan and Steve George write.
The man had tested negative for the virus nine times during the 21 days of quarantine, before testing positive on Friday — 37 days after entering China, according to state media. Chinese authorities did not reveal when, where or how the man caught the virus, but an incubation period longer than 21 days is highly unusual.
The fresh outbreak in Fujian province on China’s southeastern coast has infected more than 60 people, including 15 elementary school pupils. It emerged just two weeks after China contained its worst coronavirus flareup in more than a year, highlighting the increasing challenge posed by the highly contagious Delta variant — even in the face of the most stringent measures.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions at your child’s school
One of the highest-risk settings during school hours is during mealtime, when kids aren’t wearing masks and could be crowded together. As a parent, you can take steps to reduce risk by asking what provisions your child’s school can offer during lunch and snack time, says Fintech Zoom Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen
You can also ask about quarantine protocols. How will you know if another child tests positive? Is everyone in the class required to quarantine, or is testing an option that can reduce the need for a long quarantine — — and with it missed in-person schooling time. This is another case where rapid, frequent testing is helpful; what kind of testing options are made available for students and their families?