Adolescents have similar risks of illness and death from covid-19 when compared to young adults. A study by researchers from UFMG showed that the number of deaths in children under 18 in Brazil was seven times higher than in other countries, such as the United Kingdom.
There is evidence that vaccines prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes covid-19). A study in the UK showed that adults who became infected three weeks or more after receiving the first dose of vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca were 38 to 49% less likely to transmit the virus to those who lived in their own home and were not vaccinated.
:: Brazil passes the 21 million cases of covid-19 accumulated since the beginning of the pandemic ::
Therefore, vaccinating adolescents would likely represent a reduction in the transmission of the virus in the environments they attend, such as their homes, schools and communities. Vaccination of this group would also make it possible to reduce the risk of outbreaks and the need to isolate contacts in the school environment.
Vaccinating teenagers protects the entire population
A letter published by British families and scientists, looking at what is happening in schools, strongly recommended giving vaccines to all children over 12, with distribution in schools to maximize access and adherence.
:: Lack of vaccines and political chaos: this week put Brazil in a risky position in the face of the pandemic ::
The disclosure of the application of the third dose in elderly people without any news of the vaccination of adolescents without comorbidities in Belo Horizonte is worrying. It is a decision that contradicts what we have observed in the world and in other Brazilian capitals, not supported by the literature or by the World Health Organization (WHO).
:: Receive news from Minas Gerais on your Whatsapp. Click here ::
The argument for an increase in the proportion of deaths in the elderly seems to be a problem for statistical interpretation. As the researcher Mauricio Nogueira, professor and virologist at USP explains, this effect is expected as the vaccination coverage of the adult population expands. With the population fully vaccinated, we return to the proportional distribution of deaths observed at the beginning, which is known to be greater in the elderly. If there has been no increase in the absolute number of deaths, it does not necessarily mean that the vaccine has failed.
Recommending the third dose means a significant change in vaccination planning, a change in dose regimen. And it will likely result in broadening the recommendation to health professionals, education, etc., which could result in indefinite postponement of vaccination of children and adolescents.
:: With the new wave and variant of covid, rich countries ask: who needs the 3rd dose of the vaccine? ::
Adolescent health after more than a year of closed schools
As pediatricians, we worked throughout the pandemic serving children and teenagers. Unfortunately, we have diagnosed many teenagers with severely impaired mental health. Feelings of insecurity, uncertainty about the future, with the worsening of the economic and political crisis, associated with social isolation and the illness and death of friends and family, have led to severe depression and anxiety disorders.
Vaccinating adolescents, together with the application of sanitary measures, would allow them to go back to school with greater safety and to meet peers, reducing feelings of anxiety, insecurity and sadness.
:: Pandemic aggravates cases of mental health and young people suffer more from the impacts ::
Unvaccinated children and adolescents may become the niche of new variants and may even emerge variants that are more adapted and harmful to them. We find it fearful to wait for the situation to escalate to protect them.
Finally, in the Technical Note of the Ministry of Health, of September 2, the recommendation to vaccinate the population aged 12 to 17 is explicit. We did not find scientific references for starting the third dose, before finishing the first dose for the entire Brazilian population.
The Technical Note also says that “there is a need for vaccination of 85% or more of the population for a considerable reduction of the disease, depending on the effectiveness of the vaccine, in preventing transmission”. This certainly includes the 12-17 year old population.
It also reports that 50% of cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SRAG) per covid-19 and 70% of deaths per covid-19 in the population aged 15 to 19 years have at least one risk factor. Looking the other way around: half of SARS and 30% of deaths occurred in adolescents without comorbidities.
For all these reasons, we defend that the vaccination of adolescents with and without comorbidities must be a priority, as a public health policy!
*Cristina Gonçalves Alvim is a professor at the Department of Pediatrics at UFMG.
**Aline Almeida Bentes, Physician at the Network of Popular Doctors and Doctors, Professor at the Department of Pediatrics at UFMG.
***This is an opinion piece. The author’s vision does not necessarily express the editorial line of the newspaper Brasil de Fato.
Source: BoF Minas Gerais
Edition: Elis Almeida