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The protocol for vaccination against COVID-19 of Peruvian children between the ages of five and 11 is now ready, and their immunization is expected to begin throughout the country in the next few days. Minors will receive the Pfizer vaccine at a dose one-third of what is given to adults.

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The government’s goal is that all school-age children have their doses necessary for a safe return to classes, after two years of distance learning due to the pandemic. Adolescents between 12 and 17 years old have already been vaccinated against covid in the country for weeks.

The Minister of Health, Hernando Cevallos, assured that the necessary vaccines are insured. The first batch will arrive in the country on January 18. The process, it is expected, will take place from the third week of January and throughout February.

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According estimates population of the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (INEI), in the country there are 3.3 million children between the ages of 6 and 11. In total there are 9.6 million girls, boys and adolescents under 17 years of age.

In general, COVID-19 does not usually affect children severely, but there are vulnerable groups, such as those with chronic diseases, obesity, diabetes or cancer patients, who are at higher risk. For this reason, the Ministry of Health (Minsa) has prioritized children with comorbidities and immunosuppression.

ALSO READ: COVID-19: minors from 5 to 11 years with comorbidities and from 10 to 11 will be the first to be vaccinated next week, reports the Minsa

A high level of efficiency

A girl receives the vaccine against COVID-19 on January 12 during the start of the vaccination days for children between 5 and 11 years old, in Montevideo (Uruguay).  (Photo: EFE / Alejandro Prieto)
A girl receives the vaccine against COVID-19 on January 12 during the start of the vaccination days for children between 5 and 11 years old, in Montevideo (Uruguay). (Photo: EFE / Alejandro Prieto)

Peru is not the only country that immunizes children over five years of age in the world. They did it first Israel, United Kingdom and United States, and in the region there are various nations such as Chile and Uruguay.

Pfizer’s vaccine, which has data from phase III clinical trials, is endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of USA, Health Canada, Spain, among other health entities. And, in December, it received emergency authorization from the General Directorate of Medicines, Supplies and Drugs (Digemid).

In the phase 2-3 clinical trial, which was published in the NEJM magazine, 2,285 children between the ages of 5 and 11 were included in 81 research centers in the United States, Spain, Finland and Poland.

A total of 1,517 received the BNT162b2 vaccine and 751, placebo, a harmless substance. This is with the aim of determining the effect of the vaccine in a vaccinated group and a non-immunized group. The result was an efficacy of 90.7% for symptomatic disease.

Mild side effects

In terms of side effects, they were similar to those that occurred in the age group between 12 and 17 years. They are as follows:

“Reactions and events [adversos] reported were generally from mild to moderate, with a duration of 1 to 2 days “, the study authors clarify.

“The adverse effects are, firstly, rare and, secondly, mild. The possibility that they have a pain in the area of ​​the injection, a general malaise, a possible fever after the vaccine is a little higher especially after the second or third dose, as has been seen in adults. The first doses, in general, have been very well tolerated, but the third has had some effects a little more evident, but they have always been mild and transitory “, explains the Trade the infectologist José López Revilla, from the Hospital del Niño de San Borja.

“In general, vaccines in this group of children have always had fairly mild, transient adverse events, and events considered serious have been very rare”, Add.

For her part, the head of Immunizations of the Ministry of Health (Minsa), Gabriela Jiménez, assured RPP that the level of “Vaccine safety and all studies support safe administration of it.”

Adverse events can be managed at home

A 7-year-old girl reacts when she receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Cohen Children's Medical Center, New Hyde Park, New York, USA, November 4, 2021. (REUTERS / Andrew Kelly)
A 7-year-old girl reacts when she receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, New Hyde Park, New York, USA, November 4, 2021. (REUTERS / Andrew Kelly)

It is important to remember that children receive, in their first years of life, 22 vaccines included in the National Immunization Scheme, which prevent 26 diseases. This, says López Revilla, is an advantage, since parents usually have experience in managing the adverse effects that usually accompany vaccines that are applied in the country, such as pentavalent, influenza, among others.

“Parents in Peru, due to the high vaccination coverage and the extensive schedule, know that vaccines are safe and that they can produce some adverse effect, but that can be controlled at home, They know that at the slightest sign of alarm, which is explained to them at the time of administering the vaccines, they can go to a health center for a doctor’s evaluation ”, affirms the also professor of the Scientific University of the South.

For experts and entities such as the World Health Organization or Unicef, decades of immunization of children and adolescents have shown that they are safe and effective in preventing diseases and, “In the current epidemiological scenario, the benefits of vaccination against COVID-19 in children aged five to 11 years outweigh the possible side effects, especially in those children with risk factors for severe COVID-19”, says the National Vaccine Advisory Commission that advises the Government of Uruguay.

A child receives a dose of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 at the La Portada municipal hospital in La Paz.  (Photo: AIZAR RALDES / AFP)
A child receives a dose of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 at the La Portada municipal hospital in La Paz. (Photo: AIZAR RALDES / AFP)

Messenger RNA vaccines like Pfizer’s have been linked to some very rare cases of myocarditis [ inflamación del músculo cardíaco], but these have been reported mainly in adolescents and young men. According to the study published in NEJM, “Myocarditis, pericarditis, hypersensitivity or anaphylaxis were not reported [reacción alérgica]” in children under 11 years of age.

“How to identify them? Myocarditis are very rare and the symptoms are diverse and not very specific. […] What we recommend is that if the persistence of the discomforts possibly associated with vaccination goes beyond 72 hours, seek the evaluation of a health professional. All reported cases of myocarditis possibly related to the vaccine have been controlled, were mild and moderate, and none have been complicated by heart failure or massive myocardial infarction. That has not happened ”, reassures the doctor.

So far, more than 53 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been applied in the country. 88% of the target population have received one dose and 83% of those over 12 years of age, both doses. 20% have received the reinforcement.

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