“We’re not safe until we’re all safe”
Ireland’s vaccine rollout is picking up speed with 18-34-year-olds receiving appointments this month. Almost 3 million have now been fully vaccinated, according to the HSE.
With vaccination figures increasing and entire cohorts protected, people are now wondering when and if children should be vaccinated.
The COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been offered to children, excluding some who are deemed high risk. Many parents are urging the HSE to make vaccines available to youths before schools re-open in September, but many are wondering if they actually need a vaccine.
It’s completely understandable to feel overwhelmed by the debate and with mass amounts of misinformation and conspiracy theories taking over the Internet, it can be hard to know what to think.
Luckily, medical experts are here to clear any confusion. In an interview with The Irish Times, Professor of comparative immunology Cliona O’Farrelly explained that to gain herd immunity, children will need to be vaccinated.
“We will have to consider it, but right at the moment, our focus should definitely be on other parts of the planet. We’ve most of our vulnerable protected now by vaccination and we have a much lower incidence of hospitalisation and death.”
“The evidence is overwhelming that children get very mild disease. Just the rate of serious illness and death is really quite different in children. So to be using precious vaccines and resources for vaccinating against something that is not really causing that much of a problem is questionable.”
She explained that the most important thing is to ensure the vulnerable and adult population are vaccinated first and not just in Ireland.
Only 13% of the world’s population is fully vaccinated, meaning new variants still have the opportunity to emerge. The main priority is to ensure that figure increases before another strain like Delta spreads.
“If we really want to get back to normal life and get rid of the virus, we will be looking at it [vaccinating children]. After Delta will be Epsilon – where is it, when does it arrive? We’re not safe until we’re all safe. And that means everybody on the planet, and that means all children,” Professor O’Farrelly stressed.
She reassured parents that the vaccine is perfectly safe for children. “There are literally billions of people alive today because of vaccination, measles, mumps, rubella. We’ve got rid of smallpox. There’s no reason to believe that this one would be any different.”
It was previously reported that children could be vaccinated towards the end of the summer. The HSE’s Schools Immunisation Programme could reportedly be launched in August, just before the new school year begins. However, no date has been officially confirmed.
The HSE said they will start vaccinating people once NIAC issues their approval.
Paul Reid told Newstalk: “Once we receive that advice, we will immediately put that into action – whether that is before schools return or post-schools return – we are looking at all options and from a HSE perspective, we will execute that once the advice comes.”
Reaching herd immunity is vital, but WHO has stressed that vaccinating children in rich countries before adults in poor world countries is wrong.
“So, these countries really need vaccine to save lives and looking at it as a world problem, I really cannot see a justification for vaccination of children in European countries when it is clearly the case that that vaccine is directly taken away from the arms of people in African countries who need it stop themselves from dying,” said Dr David Nabarro.
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