News

Two doses for children under question

BY Dinitha Rathnayake

Certain children above the age of five years face a minor risk of myocarditis if they are offered two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to Consultant Paediatrician and Neonatologist Dr. Samantha De Silva, who noted that research was presently ongoing to shed light on the said phenomenon.

Speaking to The Morning, he said that some children would get myocarditis if they are provided both doses, according to the research data.

“This is just a concern and the researchers are still carrying out studies related to this issue.”

Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle. Dr. De Silva explained that in the cases of myocarditis and pericarditis, the latter being the inflammation of the outer lining of the heart, the body’s immune system causes inflammation in response to an infection or some other trigger.

“However, we also think that the vaccine should be provided for children above the age of five years in order to eliminate the risk of contracting Covid-19 and spreading it to older persons. The UK at the moment provides only one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine due to this reason; however, the US is currently providing both doses to children. While children in the UK will be offered a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, officials have said that advice about the second dose will be given at a later date.”

A British study will look into the immune responses of children to mixed schedules of different Covid-19 vaccines as officials try to determine the best approach to second doses in adolescents, given a small risk of heart inflammation. Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) initially declined to recommend shots for all 12 to 15-year-olds, citing uncertainty over the long-term impact of myocarditis, a rare side effect of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA)-based vaccines such as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The heart condition typically resolves itself with mild short-term consequences, health experts have said.

Hong Kong too has advised children to only get one shot, owing to similar concerns over heart inflammation.

The US, however, has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged five to 11 years, clearing the way for millions of young Americans to get vaccinated. The US is already giving the vaccine to those aged 12 years and over. This approval impacts some 28 million US children. Experts argue that inoculating the young is necessary for a return to normal life. The authorisation comes after expert panels at the Centres for Disease Control and Research (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) weighed the risks and benefits of vaccinating children against Covid-19. FDA officials determined that the vaccine was around 91% effective in preventing Covid-19 in young children and that their immune response was comparable to that seen in those between the ages of 16 and 25 years. No serious side effects were found by the researchers.