‘We must think ahead’: Norway mulls plan to vaccinate children

'We must think ahead': Norway mulls plan to vaccinate children
(Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) said that it may be "relevant" to vaccinate children as several vaccine manufacturers are currently testing their vaccines on youngsters.

“The infection has increased among children and young people with these new virus variants. And it (the pandemic) is not completely over even when everyone over the age of 18 has been vaccinated. And we must think ahead as well, whether it will be relevant to vaccinate children,” specialist director at the NIPH, Frode Forland, told state broadcaster NRK.

“Now the vaccines must first be tested among children and young people. And that’s about to happen now,” he added.

Why it might be important for children to be vaccinated

Margrethe Greve-Isdahl is the chief physician at the department of infection control and vaccines at the NIPH. She says vaccinating children can be important for two reasons.

“One is for children with a higher risk of serious Covid-19 disease. The second reason is that vaccination may be necessary to create herd immunity in the population,” she said.

“To say something certain about this, you need a better overview of how good the vaccines have on the spread of infection. In addition, vaccination coverage in the rest of the population will also play a role”, said Greve-Isdahl.

Is it safe?

Several vaccine companies are currently testing their vaccines on children to find out whether they are safe for use.

Pfizer will apply for approval for use of the vaccine in the United States for those over 12.  The company says the vaccine could be used on children in the autumn.

Moderna and AstraZeneca, which is currently paused in Norway, are testing vaccines on children and Johnson & Johnson is planning to test its Jansen single dose vaccine on children too.

So far none of these vaccines have been approved for use in children under 16 anywhere. Vaccines in Norway are only approved for people over 18.

Greve-Isdahl believes that, based on evidence from other existing vaccines, children can receive the same vaccines as adults, but in a different dosage.

“It is very important to look at the studies that are being done now, precisely to clarify this side effect profile. Here we just have to wait for data to come,” she said.

When could children begin getting vaccinated in Norway?

Espen Nakstad, assistant director at the Norwegian Directorate of Health, told newspaper Dagbladet that vaccines won’t be used on children in Norway until after the summer, at least.

Before being used on children in Norway, the vaccines will also need to apply for approval from the European Medicines Agency before the Norwegian Medicines Agency agrees to the use of vaccines on children.


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