Booster ‘shield’ call

BOOSTER shots of Covid-19 vaccines for children will act as a ‘shield’ against the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, Bahraini medics have said.

It comes as the country began rolling out the third shots for adolescents aged 12 to 17 from Wednesday.

The GDN earlier reported that adolescents who have received two doses of the Sinopharm vaccine will be offered Sinopharm, or Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots, which have been approved for use six months after the second dose.

Those who have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine will, however, be offered the same booster six months after the second dose.

Bahraini paediatrician Dr Maha Atwa believes boosters will protect children because they are more vulnerable to the infection.

“Booster jabs for children are definitely a parental choice, and the government has given them this freedom,” Dr Atwa told the GDN.

“There are many opinions and studies on the subject, but at a time when we are seeing an increase in infection, I would strongly recommend the third jab for children.”

Bahrain approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 12 to 17-year-olds in May last year – a critical step in the country’s steady recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The country approved Sinopharm for children aged three to 11 with comorbidities and low immunity in August, and the jabs were made open to all in this age category in October.

“As we learn, the new variant (Omicron) is rapidly spreading and is prevalent in the younger population,” said Dr Atwa.

“In this scenario, a booster shot will provide an extra layer of protection for our children as they are exposed – whether at school or on the playgrounds.

“Even at home, when they mix and mingle with friends, they are at risk of infection.

“It will serve as a shield if they travel, so I believe it is best for children to take a booster jab.”

A senior Bahraini family physician, who did not want to be named, backed Dr Atwa’s views, stating that the decisions of the National Taskforce to Combat Covid were always founded on credible international, regional and local studies.

“The CDC (US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech last year for those aged from 11 to 18, with evidence suggesting that vaccinated individuals have less chances of contracting the virus or developing complications in the future,” she said.

“Also, with the global surge in cases and mutations of the virus, booster shots will enhance immunity and help the young tide over this stage.

“I would urge all citizens and residents – eligible adults and children - to take the booster because that is the way to overcome the pandemic.”

The doctors reinforced the need to continue wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing, washing hands and sanitising.

The GDN reported in September that Bahrain had conducted almost one million rapid antigen detection tests (RADT) for Covid-19 among schoolchildren since August 2020. Task force monitoring committee head Lieutenant Colonel Dr Manaf Al Qahtani said this helped in keeping the test positivity rate among young – the vulnerable group – low and helped to reopen schools.

The US Food and Drug Administration on Monday cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech booster dose for children aged 12 to 15.

The Omicron variant has spurred a record rise in paediatric infections in the UK, parts of Europe and the US. More than 580,000 paediatric Covid-19 cases were reported in the US alone last week – a 78 per cent increase over the 325,000 new cases reported the prior week. On Tuesday, CDC also recommended that five to 11 year-olds who are immuno compromised can receive an extra dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 28 days after their second shot.




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