COVID vaccine in children less effective against Omicron vs Delta, but ward off serious illness from both: study

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The Pfizer / BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine provided less protection against the omicron variant than the delta strain in children, but protected against serious disease from both variants, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

The report said vaccination of 5- to 11-year-olds reduced hospital admissions with COVID-19 by more than two-thirds during the omicron rise and protected against serious illness.

Researchers found that vaccination also reduced COVID-19 associated hospitalizations in adolescents aged 12-18 years and strongly protected against serious illness, according to the study, led by Dr. Adrienne Randolph, MD, M.Sc., at Boston Children’s Hospital with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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“The reason a child is receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is to prevent serious complications of SARS-CoV-2 infection, including hospitalization,” Randolph said in a press release.

child and adult holding red heart with stethoscope, heart health, health insurance concept
(Credit: iStock)

“This evidence shows that vaccination significantly reduces this risk in 5- to 11-year-olds. And although vaccination provided teens with lower protection against hospitalization with omicron versus delta, it prevented critical illness from both variants.”

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The study looked at data obtained from 1185 patients admitted with Covid-19 aged 5 to 18 years and 1627 control patients of similar age who were not diagnosed with Covid-19 at 31 pediatric hospitals in 23 states from July 2021 to February 2022.

The researchers found that 88 percent of the patients admitted with COVID-19 were unvaccinated and 25 percent required life-support measures.

They dived further to find that 92 percent of children aged 5-11 years hospitalized with COVID-19 were unvaccinated. 16 percent of them were considered critically ill and required life-support interventions such as intubation. Of this group, 90 percent were unvaccinated, according to the study’s publication.

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In the young group aged 12-18 years who were hospitalized with COVID-19 infections, 87 percent were unvaccinated. The study said 27 percent were critically ill, and of those, 93 percent were unvaccinated. Two children died, it is stated in the release.

One researcher pushed for reopening of schools to mitigate worsening consequences for mental health among affected children.

One researcher pushed for reopening of schools to mitigate worsening consequences for mental health among affected children.
(iStock)

According to the study, two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were 68 percent effective in preventing hospitalization under omicron among the group of children aged 5-11 years. The researchers said in the release that since this age group was only recently eligible for the vaccine, they could not effectively calculate the number of critical illnesses separately.

The authors of the study also stated that in the 12-18-year-old group, vaccination was 92 percent effective against hospitalization with the delta variant, while it dropped to 40 percent effective against the omicron variant.

Despite the decline, the authors of the study said vaccination was 96 percent effective in preventing severe cases of the disease during the delta period and 79 percent during the omicron wave.

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Despite the fact that vaccines are currently available to children and adolescents, the researchers said that parents are still reluctant to vaccinate, and per. By March 16, only 57 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 and 27 percent of 5- to 11-year-olds had received two doses of vaccine, according to the report citing CDC data collected by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

An Israeli health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a student at the al-Manahel school in the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on December 12, 2021.

An Israeli health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a student at the al-Manahel school in the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on December 12, 2021.
(JALAA MAREY / AFP via Getty Images)

“We hope our findings will help parents make the decision to vaccinate their children and teens against COVID-19,” Randolph said in the statement. “The benefits clearly outweigh the risks, as serious childhood infections can have long-term consequences.”

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