Was vaccinating children against Covid a mistake?
A new research paper suggests that introducing this idea has led to more teenagers being hospitalized
by David Patton
“Does vaccinating children pass any kind of cost-benefit test?” Credit: Getty
What should we make of it? Research published in The scalpel Are you looking this week at the impact of vaccination on serious outcomes associated with Covid?
The paper is based on real data, so it cannot be compared and loses its credibility In the style of Neil Ferguson Modeling imaginary infection rates. The authors use a unique population-level data set and take care to control for a number of confounding factors that may affect the outcome, such as age, race, and underlying health risks. As with any empirical paper, questions can be raised about the methods, underlying assumptions, and the strength of the results. But the real story seems to be the political implication the authors drew from their findings, which has since happened mentioned In the British national press.
The study concluded that if the entire population of England and Scotland were fully vaccinated (i.e. receiving the recommended dose for each age), serious Covid-related outcomes (hospitalization or deaths) in the summer of 2022 would be reduced by about 7,000 cases. . The authors then argue that this justifies public health interventions to increase coverage and “address vaccine misinformation in a more direct way.”
To see whether such a conclusion is justified, let’s look at the group with the highest rate of “unvaccinated” people: children ages 5 to 15 years. By June 2022, of the 8.1 million children in the data set, only 15% (1.2 million) had received the recommended number of doses (one for ages 5-11, two for ages 12-15). according to The risk of death is very low From COVID to children, almost all serious outcomes in this group will be hospitalization.
The paper estimates that taking two doses less than the recommended more than doubles the risk of Covid-related hospitalization. Interestingly, taking a single dose lower than the recommended dose had no significant effect on the main results. This means that for children aged 5 to 11 years (for whom only one dose was recommended), the study found no significant effect of vaccination on hospital admission.
If all children aged 5 to 15 in England and Scotland had been fully vaccinated, the authors estimate, there would have been 210 fewer hospital admissions due to Covid-19 in this group between June and September 2022. But achieving this would have meant administering one vaccine. at least. An additional dose for 6.9 million children. In other words: for every hospitalization averted, there were 33,000 additional children who would need to be vaccinated. This estimate of the “number needed to vaccinate” (NNV) to avoid a single hospitalization is consistent with the numbers Published by the Office for National Statistics Last October.
the Lancet The study confirms that the risk of hospital admission (and therefore any potential benefit from full vaccination) is significantly lower for children who face no particular clinical risk. Although the report does not estimate the impact of vaccination specifically on those not at risk, it does ONS earlier The study estimates that the NNV for avoiding a single hospital admission is more than 10 times higher for adolescents in the clinical risk group, compared to those who are healthy.
All this suggests that fully vaccinating about 1.2 million children may have led to a reduction in hospital admissions of about 36 over four months, but it is likely that most of this reduction was limited to those in the clinical risk group.
On this basis, does vaccinating children pass any kind of cost-benefit test? This depends not only on the financial cost of vaccination, but also on the risk of side effects, including hospitalization.
It is difficult to obtain confirmed data on hospitalization due to vaccination against the Corona virus, but in the United States, the CDC V-Safe surveillance system reported that between… 1 in 5000 And 1 in 2500 Children (by age group and dose) were admitted to hospital in the 7 days after vaccination. This applies to the 1.2 million fully vaccinated children in the world Lancet The study would suggest between 240 and 480 additional hospitalizations due to non-COVID-19, dwarfing the estimated decline in hospitalizations due to COVID-19.
By focusing only on hospitalization, and ignoring other short- and long-term side effects, the risk-benefit ratio does not come close to justifying offering coronavirus vaccination to healthy children aged 5 to 15 years. Even for those in the clinical risk group, the benefit-risk ratio is marginal at best.
By its own logic, the data in Lancet The paper suggests that offering the vaccine to all children over the age of five was a policy error. If anything it led to more hospitalizations, not less.