Omicron: How good is the vaccination against corona in protecting children and young people?

Updated on 4/22/2022 at 1:42 PM

  • The omicron variant in particular is currently causing a large number of corona cases in Germany.
  • When the vaccine was approved for children as well, the important question was: What does vaccination really do?
  • Existing studies now provide important insights – especially for intensive courses.

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When BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for teens was approved, the wild type and the alpha variant of SARS-CoV-2 were still setting the stage for infection. In the pivotal study of children, delta was mainly traded.

However, in the meantime, the omicron variant, which is transmitted much more easily, is implicated in the infection of Corona in Germany. But to what extent do vaccines still protect these age groups? Three studies published in the past few weeks provide initial insights.

How effective is vaccination in protecting against infection?

In a US study, nearly 1,400 regularly vaccinated and unvaccinated children and teens were tested for SARS-CoV-2 over several months. The research team used the data to calculate the effectiveness of vaccination in protecting against corona infection with or without symptoms compared to no vaccination.

  • In children ages 5 to 11, the second vaccination was about two to three months earlier, and the research team estimated the protective effect at about 30 percent.
  • That is, vaccination prevented approximately a third of the infections that would occur without vaccination. For comparison: In the consent study, protection was about 90 percent over a good two-month period.
  • For children 12 to 15 years of age, vaccination prevented nearly 60 percent of infections from two weeks to approximately five months after the second dose compared to unvaccinated people. In the approval study, nearly 100 percent over a two-month period was good.

To what extent does vaccination protect against intense training sessions?

Two other studies using US data calculated how vaccination protects children and adolescents from hospitalization or emergency treatment. However, the researchers evaluated the data in the two studies at different times after the second vaccination, so they cannot be compared directly.

  • In children 5 to 11 years of age, studies have estimated protection against such severe courses of approximately 70 percent within one month after the second vaccination or about 50 percent within two months after the second vaccination.
  • At the age of 12 to 15 years, the efficacy of vaccination with respect to acute courses was about 35 to 45 percent about five months after the second vaccination. Vaccination appears to protect young people better from very intense training sessions. Scientists have calculated the effectiveness to be around 80 percent.

What does a supporter bring to young people?

If the second vaccination was more than five months ago, the vaccination provides less protection against more serious courses. One study also examined protection from OMICRON-related emergency therapy when young adults received a booster vaccine: the efficacy was about 80 percent one week after the third injection.

How important are studies?

In order to be able to properly classify the results, the details of the studies are important: unlike the consent studies, the last three investigations are observational studies only. In this type of study, participants are not randomly assigned to the vaccination group or the control group.

This brings with it problems: In addition to vaccination status, there may be other important differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated people that affect more risky testing, infection, or training sessions. In some cases, studies have largely taken these factors into account. However, it cannot be excluded that other factors completely distort the results.

In addition, estimates of the effect of vaccines are not entirely accurate. Protection may also be much smaller.

The studies also only compared the risks to vaccinated versus unvaccinated individuals. However, it is not possible to derive an absolute risk from outcomes, that is, the proportion of people with or without the vaccination who will become infected or sick within a given time period.

What do these results mean?

The investigations confirm the picture that has emerged in studies of the benefits of vaccination in adults: Compared to the wild type of MERS-CoV or the delta variant, vaccination probably provides less protection against infection with Omicron. Protection from intense training sessions remains high.

For young adults, studies provide evidence that protection from omicron vaccination decreases over time, but increases again with a booster. Because children in the studies were vaccinated relatively recently, no reliable conclusions can be drawn from these data about how often and when a booster might be used for them.

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