Dutch Health Council recommends Covid vaccines for 12-17 year olds
The Dutch Health Council has recommended making the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine available to everyone from the age of 12 through 17. The Council issued the recommendation following an "extensive ethical and legal consideration," it said. The newest advice was presented to the Health Minister Hugo de Jonge on Monday.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge previously said he was in favor of vaccinating children in that age group. However, he said he would not make a formal decision before receiving the formal advisory statement from the Health Council.
According to the newest advice, vaccinating members of this age group can be beneficial not only for young people but for the entire population. The Council explained that offering jabs to young people aged 12 to 17 will help to contain a possible revival of the epidemic in winter and thus also reduce the infection rate among adults.
"In addition to direct health benefits, vaccination can also provide indirect health benefits. For example, vaccination of 12 to 17-year-olds will lead to less virus circulation in that group and therefore to a smaller chance of restrictive measures that have a negative impact on them, such as quarantine for school classes or closing schools," the Council stated.
The Health Council pointed to several reports of side effects following the use of Pfizer/BioNtech in adolescents. They stated most of them were moderate in severity and disappear after a few days. It mentioned reports of myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis, inflammation of the pericardium, as being possible side effects, which also have been mostly mild when they occur.
"It is still unclear to what extent the occurrence of myocarditis and pericarditis is related to vaccination with BioNTech/Pfizer. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently investigating this. Myocarditis and pericarditis also occur with an infection with the coronavirus itself," the Council stated.
De Jonge said that he would not make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for any age group, including younger groups. "To ensure that adolescents can make a voluntary and well-informed choice, it is important that accessible, understandable and age-appropriate information is available about the advantages and disadvantages of vaccination against COVID-19," the Council wrote in its letter.
The advice from the Health Council was sent a day after the head of the Dutch Association of Pediatrics (NVK) said he was in favor of the position. “The most important consideration is that it has a significant effect against the spread of the more contagious delta variant,” said Károly Illy, the chair of the NVK, in an interview with NOS on Monday.
Illy was waiting for more data about side effects experienced by children, and wanted to consider the ethics of vaccinating children against a disease which the NZK said is unlikely to seriously affect their personal health. "But it is clear from the latest models that predict the spread of the disease that, if teenagers are not vaccinated, the number of infections will rise sharply after the summer. That increase is significantly higher than if the teenagers were vaccinated,” Illy said to the Volkskrant.
“It is also not good for teenagers if society again ends up in a semi-lockdown in the fall,” he said.