“The vaccination of children is not a great success and it’s a real shame”, regrets Alain Fischer, the president of the Council of Orientation of the Vaccine Strategy. The least we can say is that it does not take. Since its opening at the end of December, only 3.8% of 5-11 year olds have received at least one injection against Covid-19, i.e. 216,000 children out of 5.8 million eligible (4.8 million eligible this Tuesday, if we exclude the almost one million positive cases currently at Covid).
To encourage parents to take the plunge, the government wants to reassure on the scientific basis of the campaign, and activate the logistical levers to make injections easy for families.
Children at risk
Vaccination of children “is relevant, in the context of a pandemic with an extremely high number of contaminations, and safe”, insists Alain Fischer. The health and ethical authorities have come out in favor of this vaccination for collective protection of children, but also individual.
One point particularly worries the authorities in this sluggish start: it also concerns children with comorbidities, therefore at risk of developing serious forms of the disease. As of January 9, the latest count from the Ministry of Health on this category, 2.8% of the 350,000 children suffering from chronic diseases had received at least one injection. “We must vaccinate them as soon as possible to protect them”, pleads Alain Fischer.
Nurses and midwives to the rescue
To accelerate the movement, the Ministry of Health activates the logistical levers. This week, new health professionals will be authorized to prescribe and inject the vaccine to children: midwives, nurses and pharmacists will be able to prescribe and vaccinate. In addition, firefighters, medical and nursing students as well as dental surgeons will be able to inject the vaccine to 5-11 year olds.
The number of appointments in centers will increase. This Tuesday 635 vaccination centers are equipped for pediatric vaccination, against 565 last week. The ultimate goal is for 90% of centers to offer vaccination to children. Currently, 71,000 slots are available by the end of January, and 102,000 by the end of February. The new slots will be offered as a priority on Wednesdays or weekends to stick to the schedules of primary school students. Finally, the passing of the law on the vaccination pass acknowledges the fact that the authorization of only one parent is necessary to have their child vaccinated.
It remains for the executive to lift the main brake, psychological. Parents are reluctant to have their little ones vaccinated. In December, Public Health France had surveyed their intentions: only 43% of parents were ready to have their child aged 5-11 vaccinated.
Reminder for teens
In adolescents, the question does not arise. Vaccination of 12-17 year olds continues with 4.2 million first-timers, or 82% of the age group (an increase of 0.7 percentage point over last week), according to the Ministry of Health. Since Monday, January 24, the booster dose has been open to this age group, on a voluntary basis. The rules are different from those for adults: the third dose must take place six months after a complete two-dose vaccination schedule, because “we observe a slower decrease in antibodies in adolescents than in adults”, explains the Ministry of Health. This week, 527,000 teenagers are eligible for this recall, including contamination. If we remove the infected teenagers, they are 417,000 to be able to receive an injection.