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  • 16-17-year-olds to be offered coronavirus vaccination


16-17-year-olds to be offered coronavirus vaccination

The Government has decided that 16 and 17-year-olds in Norway will be offered coronavirus vaccination, based on advice from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

The Government has decided that 16 and 17-year-olds in Norway will be offered coronavirus vaccination, based on advice from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

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During the summer, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has gathered more information and experience from countries that offer vaccines to adolescents. The recommendation is based on a thorough assessment of available knowledge.

"Few adolescents have had a severe COVID-19 disease course, but there is transmission among 16-17-year-olds. Vaccination will help protect the few who can become seriously ill if they are infected, in addition to reducing transmission in society," says Margrethe Greve-Isdahl, Senior Physician at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

She also emphasises that reducing transmission in this age group following vaccination is necessary to be able to ease restrictions that have particularly affected adolescents during the pandemic.

Who will be offered a vaccine?

The offer now goes out to everyone born in 2004 and 2005, which is approximately 127,000 adolescents. The majority are 16-years-old and are of legal age, and can consent to vaccination themselves. Those born in 2005 who have not yet reached the age of 16 must obtain consent from both parents.

Data from Norway and other countries show that the 16-19 year age group gets COVID-19 far more often than younger children. Adolescents also wish to be vaccinated.

"Surveys show that 16-17-year-olds want to be vaccinated, and that parents of children and adolescents also want them to be vaccinated," explains Greve-Isdahl.

The 16 and 17 year age group will be prioritised for vaccination after the adult population over 18 years. Given that most people over the age of 18 have already received at least one vaccine dose, it will, to a large extent, be possible for each municipality to accommodate 16-17-year-olds in the vaccination arrangements in the municipality.

Adolescents offered mRNA-vaksine

Both the vaccine from BioNTech / Pfizer (Comirnaty) and the vaccine from Moderna (Spikevax) have been approved for use from the age of 12. Most European countries, USA, Canada and Australia recommend vaccination for the 16-17 age group. Until now, only adolescents with underlying disease have been offered a vaccine in Norway.

"The vaccines have been shown to give vaccinated people a high degree of protection against a severe disease course already a few weeks after the first dose, also against the Delta variant," says Greve-Isdahl.

There is new information about a rare side effect after mRNA vaccines with inflammation of the heart muscle called myocarditis. The condition occurs more frequently among younger age groups, among boys and mainly after the second dose. It is not yet known how often the condition occurs, but it is rare; in the USA, an incidence of up to 7 per 100,000 vaccinated boys in adolescence has been reported, while unpublished data from Israel estimate that it is more frequent.

"Recent research shows that this condition can arise after vaccination among some people, and where most people recover within a month. We have also obtained advice from cardiologists who believe that this rare side effect should not prevent young people from being offered a vaccine. COVID-19 disease among adolescents can have a more serious effect on the heart than myocarditis after vaccination," says Greve-Isdahl.

16-17 year olds are recommended to have an interval between the first and second dose of 8 - 12 weeks. The reason for the long interval is that young people have a good immune response to the vaccine, and will be protected against a severe disease course after the first dose. New studies have shown that a long interval can provide a better vaccine response, and it will also provide time to gain more knowledge about the risk of myocarditis after the second vaccine dose.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health continues to assess whether vaccination should be offered to 12-15-year-olds. Any decision about this will be in several weeks.