Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has said 862 children aged five-11, out of a possible 100,000, had received the paediatric covid19 vaccine since the rollout started on May 25.
Speaking at the ministry’s covid19 virtual media conference on Wednesday, Deyalsingh said parents had been given the information they needed to make an informed decision. He urged them to have their children vaccinated.
Dr Joanne Paul, head of the Paediatric Emergency Department, Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, answered some of the most frequently asked questions about the paediatric vaccines. One was about the amount of research done on the vaccine, which is a third of the adult dose.
“While the initial research on the vaccines was done on 2,000 children, by the time we received them in TT, millions of children had received it across the world, with at least ten million children receiving it in the US. We have taken a look at their data to see what the effects were.
“So far it’s been used in the USA and Canada, all European countries except for Sweden, Scotland and Ireland with England about to start, most middle Eastern countries, China, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, most South American countries and Cuba.”
She said the vaccine had been recommended by the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control, and the European Medicines Agency, as well as the US and TT Paediatric Associations.
Paul said while in the 12-17 year age group the vaccine had shown a small risk of myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle), there had been virtually no cases of myocarditis in children receiving the reduced dose.
“The US has recorded one to two cases per million, while other countries have recorded none. The cases were all short, mild, and easily resolved.
“Children are more at risk of getting myocarditis from being infected with the covid19 virus, the influenza virus or the coxsackie virus, which causes hand, foot, and mouth disease.”
She reassured parents that children who received the vaccine had a reduced risk of getting the virus, although they could still get it; a reduced risk of transmitting the virus and of having long covid or multi-system inflammatory syndrome (Mis-C), and a significantly reduced chance of reinfection, especially with the omicron variant.
Paul said these were the reasons parents should let their child have the vaccine even if they were not vulnerable.
“It also reduces the risk of spread to vulnerable children, the elderly and in the home. With the reopening of schools, it means that there is a reduction of time where children have to be in quarantine and can participate in activities. Also, the July/August vacation is coming up, so if you’re travelling, it provides extra protection.”
She said an additional reason the vaccine was needed was the high prevalence of diabetes and obesity among children.
“TT’s population is one of the highest in the Americas for adult and childhood obesity and diabetes, both of which were the highest comorbidities that make one most at risk for getting severe covid19 or dying from covid19.
“Prof Paul Teelucksingh said 50 per cent of the children in TT were obese, while 70 per cent of the adult population is obese, 60 per cent have high blood pressure, and 25 per cent were diabetic.”
Paul responded to an open letter from a group of doctors which said the paediatric vaccine should not be given to “low-risk” children.
“Most people have a right to their opinions. With all due respect to my colleagues, they are looking at children who are not vulnerable, who have no chronic diseases, who are not obese and have no chronic diseases.
“Most countries have two approaches – giving the vaccine only to the vulnerable people, or giving it to everyone. What they found was, the first approach was very limited, and (they) have changed to the second one.
“What happens is that if all children are protected, there is less transmission to everyone, so by protecting the low-risk, you’re protecting the high-risk also.”
Paul encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated to keep them protected.