How dangerous is the Delta variant for children and adolescents?

SPD health politician Karl Lauterbach has suggested to the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko) to reconsider its restricted recommendation for corona vaccinations for children and adolescents in view of the more contagious Delta variant. “The Stiko argues that Covid is harmless for children. In my opinion, this does not apply to the Delta variant, ”he told the“ Rheinische Post ”. Infecting the younger ones is too risky, and alternating lessons are no solution. Lauterbach referred to Great Britain, where many children with Covid-19 currently have to be treated in the clinics.

Does the Delta variant, which was first detected in India, actually represent such a great danger for the younger age groups that the Stiko has to update its recommendation? The professional association of paediatricians (BVKJ) warns of alarmism: “According to current knowledge, the delta variant also seems to be relatively harmless in its effects on children and young people with regard to serious illnesses,” the association announced at the request of the editorial network Germany .

Delta can spread faster in younger people

This is also suggested by data from the UK Office for National Statistics and the Public Health England (PHE). According to this, children and adolescents are currently not being treated more often in hospital for Covid-19 disease than adults. The hospitalization rate in the week up to June 20 was 1.60 per 100,000 people in the 15- to 24-year-old age group and 0.45 for the five- to 14-year-olds. For comparison: among 25 to 44 year olds the rate was 2.27; 1.90 for 55 to 64 year olds.

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What is certain, however, is that children and adolescents can also become more easily infected with the Delta variant. In the week up to June 20, the number of infected five to nine year olds increased by 70 percent compared to the previous week, according to a report in the Sunday Times. For ten to 14 year olds it was an increase of 56 percent. The newspaper relies on data from the PHE.

“It is important to understand that the Delta variant is more transmissible and possibly more serious, but it is not a new virus,” said Prof. James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and the University of Oxford, last Friday British Science Media Center. “Those who are most at risk, the elderly and those with health complications, are at a much higher risk of developing serious illness. Young and healthy people have a much lower, but not zero risk. “

What does this mean for the risk-benefit analysis of the Stiko?

What does that mean for Stiko? So far, the panel of experts, which is based at the Robert Koch Institute, had always argued that the data situation was still too small to make a general vaccination recommendation for children and adolescents.

The Stiko currently recommends a corona vaccination only for twelve to 17-year-olds with certain previous illnesses such as obesity or trisomy 21 as well as those who have relatives or other contact persons in their environment with a high risk of a severe course of Covid-19. After medical information and individual risk acceptance, children and adolescents without previous illnesses could also be vaccinated, according to the current vaccination recommendation.

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RKI President: Have to defend the low incidences

The virus will only be under control when the majority of people have immune protection, said RKI President Lothar Wieler. © Reuters

“The Stiko is an independent, extremely precise advisory institution of the federal government”, praises the BVKJ. “It will scientifically assess the situation closely and then come to a modification of its recommendations in good time. To let politics rush you again does not seem to make sense. “

Vaccination rates in younger age groups are still very low

The risk of getting seriously ill with the Delta variant infection appears to be low, at least for children and adolescents. The crucial question then is: is the risk of developing side effects with a vaccination lower? Then nothing would stand in the way of a general vaccination recommendation. But it is precisely the safety of the corona vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer, for which there is not yet enough data with regard to children, according to Stiko. The number of children and adolescents examined in the clinical studies was too small to discover frequent adverse events.

So far, only a few children and young people in Germany have been vaccinated against Covid-19. According to data from the Robert Koch Institute, the vaccination quota for those under the age of 18 is on average 2.4 percent (first vaccinations) and 0.8 percent (second vaccinations). The vaccination campaign in the USA is a little further advanced: 2.8 percent of 12 to 15 year olds and 2.0 percent of 16 to 17 year olds received a first dose of vaccination. 2.2 percent of 12 to 15 year olds and 1.8 percent of 16 to 17 year olds are now fully immunized. This is shown by data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which could also be relevant for the vaccination recommendation of the Stiko.

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BVKJ: Kita and school closings “last step in defense against infection”

However, the vaccination rates are still too low to weigh up the risks and benefits – let alone prevent the fourth corona wave forecast by experts. It can therefore be assumed that unvaccinated children and adolescents will be infected with Delta in autumn and winter. The virus variant currently accounts for around 15 percent of all new infections in Germany. By the end of August, however, their share in Europe could increase to 90 percent, believes the European disease authority ECDC.

The BVKJ is already warning: “Closing daycare centers and schools again may only be the last step in defense against infection.” In order to prevent infections in unvaccinated people, it is also important “to build up good all-round protection,” said Prof. Timo Ulrichs, epidemiologist from the Akkon University for Human Sciences, in conversation with N-TV. “That means that the adults should be vaccinated as completely as possible. Then it is like a security wall around the people who are not vaccinated. “

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