Why is the vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 not progressing?

Started on December 20, the vaccination campaign for children aged 5 to 11 is slow to take off with only 2% vaccinated. Explanations.

While 92% of French people over the age of 12 have received at least one dose of vaccine against Covid-19, only 2% of 5-11 year olds have received their first dose. If the vaccination campaign for this age group only started on December 20, its beginnings remain very sluggish with only 115,000 doses injected, according to figures from the Ministry of Solidarity and Health.

By way of comparison, Spain and Portugal vaccinated 1.24 million and more than 300,000 children respectively, or 37% and 48% of this age group, while their vaccination campaign began at the same time as that of France. While the vaccination of adolescents is a success with nearly 80% vaccinated, how to explain these sluggish beginnings?

Very often asymptomatic children

First of all, children are often asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic and are at very low risk of serious forms when they contract Covid-19, especially with the Omicron variant. Many parents do not feel obligated to have their child vaccinated. If the number of children under 10 hospitalized with Covid-19 has never been as high as today (395), the virus is not necessarily the direct cause of their hospitalization, as the explains pediatrician Fabienne Kochert to France Bleu Loiret: “These are mainly asymptomatic children who are screened for Covid +, while they are hospitalized for something else, for example for a surgical operation or because they have another pathology. There are many small infants who have a fever and who are screened for Covid + without there necessarily being any seriousness.

In addition, since the start of the vaccination campaign for 5-11 year olds, few centers were open for children. Many could not offer pediatric courses, but this is gradually being put in place. While there were initially only 100 vaccination centers open in December, there were 350 last week and then 505 this week according to the ministry, which aims to continue to increase these figures. But so far, many parents have had trouble finding a niche.

Communication errors

But beyond supply, there is the problem of demand. According to an Inserm survey carried out before Christmas and before the HAS recommendation, no less than two thirds of parents (67%) of children aged 5 to 11 are not in favor of their vaccination. A figure not surprising when you know that a few weeks ago, many scientists, as well as the French Society of Pediatrics, claimed that this vaccination for this age group was not necessary.

A glaring communication problem noted by Gilles Pialoux, head of the infectious diseases department at the Tenon hospital (AP-HP) in Paris, at the microphone of BFM TV: “For months, we explained to parents, including the French Pediatric Society, that it was not an emergency, that it was not up to the children to pay for the fact that the adults were not vaccinated and all of a sudden they had to be vaccinated. […] The French Society of Pediatrics in its communication was irresponsible. In November, she explained that it was not an emergency, that there was a place for natural immunity and that there was no viral circulation in the school environment.

The state partly responsible?

The government also has its share of responsibility for the failure of the start of this vaccination campaign for the youngest according to Mahmoud Zureik, professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, interviewed by L ‘Express: “Health authorities and learned societies do not carry it out. As a result, who will vaccinate their children? Well-informed people. Those who are uninformed or misinformed will not.”

Beyond these communication errors, many parents prefer to listen to the practitioner following their child, says Fabienne Kochert. “Many parents want to have the opinion of the doctor who knows their child, the pediatrician who follows their child or the general practitioner who has always vaccinated their children. And parents are reassured when it is the doctor who gives the information and who himself vaccinates their child.”

Consent of both parents is required

While the agreement of only one parent was necessary to vaccinate a minor child, it is now compulsory since January 6 to present a certificate with the authorization of both parents for children from 5 to 11 years old. In case of disagreement between the two parents, the child cannot be vaccinated, which will probably not help to skyrocket the number of young people vaccinated.

Last explanation, the health pass is only required from the age of 12. If vaccination is not compulsory in France, the government strongly encourages the population to get vaccinated with the establishment of the health pass, and soon the vaccination pass, which allow access to certain places. Since children under 12 are not affected by the health pass, they are less subject to this strong incentive which has undoubtedly prompted more than one to be bitten.

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