In the past month, the number of verified corona climbers in Israel has climbed, and so far more than 100,000 youths have been vaccinated in Israel. The delta strain continues to spread at a rapid rate and poses a risk mainly to people who have not been vaccinated, including children aged 12-0, who are known not to be vaccinated yet and as a result lead to rising morbidity and with it the amount of citizens required to enter isolation. When are vaccines expected for these ages as well and what is the state of research conducted in the field? Prof. Cyril Cohen, Head of the Immunotherapy Laboratory at Bar Ilan University and a member of the Advisory Committee for Clinical Trials on Corona Vaccines, answers all questions on the subject.
At what clinical stage are the vaccines currently available?
‘Stage 2/3 (parallel). At the moment, the goal is to test what is the optimal dose in terms of quantity, basic efficiency and also efficiency on a larger scale. “
How is the research conducted?
“The current study in the U.S. involves 4,600 children, divided into three age groups: six months to two years, two to five years, and 5 to 11 years. The youngest to receive the shot so far is an 8-month-old baby. Naturally, the vaccine dose is likely to be lower than that of adults. “By the way, the parents of a child who is participating in the experiment do not know if he received a placebo or a regular vaccine, and so they actually compare the groups and test the effectiveness of the vaccine.”
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When do you think child vaccines will start in Israel?
“In my opinion, the results of the study are expected at the beginning of this fall, and assuming that efficacy is proven and no problematic side effects are found, an application for FDA approval will be submitted. If the FDA Will confirm this and estimate that it is still an emergency condition, the expectation of vaccinations can be from November to December. The vaccine may not be approved or additional details may be required. ‘
Since children’s immune system is usually very good, I guess we will see excellent vaccine effectiveness at these ages. The question is whether we see significant side effects.
Although it can not be ignored that rare symptoms of myocarditis have been described in young people following the vaccine. On the other hand, since in most cases the disease in children is very mild or asymptomatic, I do not think we can compromise on a vaccine that does not have a very high safety profile. When approving a vaccine one should always weigh the risks against the benefit. Therefore, when the risk for children is not great, it is important that the chance of possible side effects tends to be zero. In any case, the choice of whether or not to vaccinate must remain with the parents. “
Can you understand parents volunteering their child for research?
“This is definitely a complex ethical issue. These are healthy children who are going to participate in the experiment, so I think it takes a lot of courage to decide to attach the one dear to you. With a hand on heart – I’m not sure I could have done it personally. Beyond that, there are parents who are very worried about hospitalization because of corona complications, although this is rare in children but it does happen. Some of them explain that the desire is to contribute to herd immunity.
“Over the past year, we have learned that corona is an unpredictable virus. Every day a more violent strain, or God forbid a more dangerous strain for children, may be discovered. Therefore, vaccine development is also important for the young population – and as early as possible,” concludes Prof. Cohen.
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