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Vaccine and COVID-19 in children: what do we know?

Since the end of November 2021, it is possible for children over 5 years of age to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in a vaccination center or in certain schools.

This vaccination campaign follows Health Canada’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine administered in a reduced dose to children. The dose for this age group is 10 mcg, compared to 30 mcg for adolescents (14 years and older) and adults. The recommended interval between the two doses is at least 8 weeks.

Children and COVID-19

In children, the overall risk of developing a severe form of COVID-19 is low. On the other hand, this virus is now the eighth leading cause of death in children in the United States.

In some cases, children with COVID-19 can develop an autoimmune disease called Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). Although rare in Canada, this serious illness requires, in 99% of cases, hospitalization, and sometimes (⅓ of cases) admission to intensive care.

In addition, a recent study indicates that the risk of developing type 1 or (T1D) type 2 diabetes is higher in those under 18 affected by COVID-19, thus reinforcing the importance of preventing this virus.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe in children?

Health Canada’s approval process is rigorous and includes not only a thorough review of clinical trials involving thousands of people, but also verification of the safety of manufacturing practices.

For this reason, and in order to gain perspective on this age group, childhood immunizations come months after adults.

The main study demonstrating the safety and efficacy of the vaccine involved 2285 children aged 5 to 11 (20% of whom had chronic illnesses) in order to be able to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine when other health factors come into play, such as T1D.

Of the participants, 1,528 received the vaccine, and the remaining 757 received a placebo. They were all followed for at least 1 month after the second dose.

This study shows that the vaccine is very well tolerated in 5 to 11 year olds, with 90.7% protection against all forms of COVID-19 with the reduced dose of 10 mcg. Of those who received the vaccine, only three children contracted a mild case of COVID-19 without severe, long-lasting symptoms, hospitalization, or death. No cases of MIS-C have been reported.

More than 9 million children (5 to 11 years old) are already vaccinated in the United States.

Two other studies were published at the end of December 2021, in order to confirm the safety of vaccines in children. Some cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) have been reported in men aged 12 to 29 years as a very rare side effect of the vaccine. The rare people affected by this complication quickly presented a favorable development.

Both studies, however, clearly show the vaccine’s safety for children aged 5 to 11 and underline the importance of immunizing children against the coronavirus.

COVID-19 and type 1 diabetes

From a general perspective, living with T1D does not increase the risk of contracting COVID-19, but having COVID-19 can complicate blood sugar management.

Remember that, in adults living with T1D, certain factors increase the risk of developing a severe form of COVID-19. These include, an age of 40 or over, suboptimal blood sugar management (glycated hemoglobin, HbA1c> 9%), the presence of complications in the kidneys or heart, or the presence of obesity. As in children, it is now established that the risks associated with vaccines are very low in adults and that the benefits (protection against severe forms of COVID-19 infection) greatly outweigh these risks.

In this pandemic period that can be difficult, even anxiety-provoking for some, the management of type 1 diabetes, which represents a daily challenge, can be challenging. The new wave that we are currently going through will call again for adaptation and resilience. It is therefore more important than ever to remain caring and supportive, and to help those around us who may find the situation more difficult.

Find our resources: articles, replay of our webinars, PDFs, to help you best with the management of type 1 diabetes.

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