COVID-19 vaccines could go to children first to protect the elderly

COVID-19 vaccines could go to children first to protect the elderly

Several COVID-19 vaccines are in late-stage clinical trials. So discussion is turning to who should receive these vaccines first, should they be approved for use. Today, we discuss two options. One is to prioritise the elderly. This article looks at the benefits of vaccinating children first.

The World Health Organisation is discussing how best to allocate and prioritise COVID-19 vaccines when they arrive.

It is focusing on the immediate crisis. To reduce deaths quickly when there are extremely limited vaccine doses available, vaccinating older, more vulnerable people is expected to be the best option, even if the vaccine is relatively poor at protecting them. That is because the elderly are so much more likely to die from the disease.

But as we produce more vaccines, the goal will be returning to normality where we can freely mix without increased risk. If vaccines are not very effective in older adults, we will need many more people to be vaccinated, including children. One possible strategy is to prioritise children.

Why children first?

The risks and benefits of particular COVID-19 vaccination strategies depend on information we don’t yet have. For example, we don’t yet know whether vaccines work or are safe for specific population groups, such as the young or the old.

But it is worth thinking about the ethics of different strategies in advance. In a pandemic, time can save lives.

A COVID-19 vaccine may be less effective in the elderly because their immune systems decline naturally with age, making them perhaps less able to trigger an efficient, protective immune response after vaccination.…

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