Dr Océane Sorel, a French specialist in virology and immunology, answers your questions about COVID-19, vaccines and children aged 5 to 11 years old.
Dr Sorel has joined the United Nations “Team Halo“, a group of doctors, scientists, and researchers, who have voluntarily committed to counter misinformation on social networks.
Dr Sorel also devotes part of her time to popularizing science on her Instagram account “The French Virologist“, where she explains in simple terms, and with certified sources, the scientific facts on health topics, including COVID-19.
Océane Sorel recently answered your questions about pregnancy and vaccinations during the pandemic.
COVID-19 AND CHILDREN AGED 5 TO 11 YEARS
What are the common symptoms of COVID-19 in children?
Symptoms vary from child to child. Just like adults, some children are asymptomatic (= no symptoms), others may present various symptoms such as: fatigue, fever, cough, aches, diarrhea, alteration of taste and smell, vomiting, etc…
Can children develop severe forms of COVID-19?
Although the infection is less likely to cause severe disease in children, SARS-CoV-2 infection in some children may lead to respiratory distress syndrome, myocarditis, etc., or may appear in the form of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).
Recent data showed that most cases of severe disease happen in children with no underlying conditions.
Are there cases of long COVID-19 in children? Does the vaccine protect against it?
Yes, several studies have recently been published on the subject, but the data are still too limited to accurately determine the frequency and severity of long COVID-19 symptoms in children.
Available data in vaccinated adult populations suggest that vaccines reduce the risk of developing long COVID. Regarding children, data are not yet available for this age group, but given what is observed in the adult population, vaccination most likely reduces their risk of developing long COVID.
Are children contagious?
Yes, studies have shown that, just like adults, children can become infected with the virus and transmit it to others, even when they are asymptomatic.
Is wearing a mask dangerous to their physical health?
No. Wearing masks is not toxic for children’s physical health. Contrary to popular belief, they do not impair breathing.
VACCINATION AND CHILDREN AGED 5 TO 11 YEARS
With which vaccine and at which dose are children vaccinated?
There is only one vaccine authorized in Europe for children aged 5 to 11 years: Pfizer’s Comirnaty® vaccine. This vaccine contains a pediatric formulation with 10 micrograms of RNA, which is one third of the adult dose. Currently, the vaccination schedule for children consists of 2 doses spaced 3 weeks apart.
What is the benefit of vaccination for children? Is it effective? From what age is it recommended?
Currently available data have shown that vaccination is very effective in preventing severe disease in children.
The benefit/risk balance of vaccination of healthy children has been evaluated by the drug regulatory authorities, EMA in Europe and FDA in the United States, as being favourable.
The individual benefit in vaccinating children is even more important with the new emergence of the Omicron variant, which seems to be more contagious, which can lead to an increase in cases of severe disease in children.
Does the vaccine have specific side effects on children? Will side effects appear years after vaccination?
Clinical trials and real-world data are extremely reassuring and have shown the vaccine to be effective and safe for children. The most common side effect reported is a sore arm. Other mild and temporary side effects may also occur such as fever or fatigue.
Regarding the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis, the data is also reassuring. In a recent report, US data showed 12 cases of myocarditis among 8.7 million vaccine doses administered to children between 5 and 11 years of age, which constitutes an extremely low risk.
It is important to mention that infection with the COVID-19 virus can also cause myocarditis at a higher frequency than the vaccine, which also explains the assessment of the benefit/risk balance as favourable to the vaccine.
Finally, allergic reactions to one of the components of the vaccine are an extremely rare side effect.
 Dr. Sorel holds a PhD in Science in the field of Virology/Immunology and obtained in 2016 the title of Doctor of Science from the University of Liège (Belgium).
She then moved to the United States to start a post-doctoral research fellowship at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles to study human viruses causing cancers. In 2018, she begins a second postdoctoral stay, at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) in a laboratory that studies the immune response to viruses such as Ebola and chickenpox/shingles virus.
At the end of 2019, Dr. Sorel is leaving academic research for private research in California, in the field of infectious disease.