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CHILDREN

Mystery virus syndrome also found in children in France, minister reveals

France has more than a dozen cases of children with inflammation around the heart, the health minister said Wednesday, after Britain sounded an alarm about a new disease with possible links to novel coronavirus.

Mystery virus syndrome also found in children in France, minister reveals
AFP

Olivier Veran said there was not enough evidence to confirm a link with the coronavirus sweeping the globe but France was taking the cases “very seriously”.

Britain's state-run National Health Service issued the alert at the weekend about a small number of children presenting an unusual set of symptoms, including abdominal pain and inflammation that required admission to intensive care.

In London, health minister Matt Hancock on Tuesday spoke of “early signs that in rare cases, there is an impact of an auto-immune response in children that causes a significant disease.

“It's a new disease that we think may be caused by coronavirus and the COVID-19 virus.”

But he said that while some of the children who have it tested positive for the virus, others did not.

Cases have also been reported in Italy, Spain and Switzerland, Veran told Franceinfo news radio, adding he had received an alert from Paris concerning “about 15 children of all ages”.

The French minister listed the symptoms as fever, digestive problems and vascular inflammation which can lead to cardiac deficiency.

“To my knowledge, fortunately no child has died from these complications which are fairly rare illnesses that can come with inflammation of the heart,” Veran said.

Some of the cases “in France as in England, but not all, have turned out to carry the coronavirus”, causing “some concern and watchfulness”.

“I am taking this very seriously. We have absolutely no medical explanation at this stage.

“Is it an inflammatory reaction which sets off a pre-existing condition in children who have this virus or is it another infectious disease? There are a lot of questions.

The minister urged international and French experts to gather as much data as possible to establish if a link can be made between the coronavirus and the new symptoms, “which until now had not been seen anywhere”.

France intends to re-open primary schools from May 11 and the minister noted that children had largely escaped COVID-19 infection and that serious cases involved those with underlying conditions.

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HEALTH

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

As France launches its autumn vaccine campaign, almost half of those eligible for the second booster jab in France have already received it. This has left some wondering whether they could qualify for a third booster, using the new dual-strain vaccines.

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

Question: I’m in my 70s and I had my second booster back in the summer but now I see that the new dual-strain vaccines are available – should I be getting an extra booster with the new type of vaccine?

French health authorities launched the autumn booster campaign on October 3rd includes newly authorised dual-strain vaccines – such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.1, the Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.1, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.4/5 – which are designed to combat the Omicron variant.

It will be followed by the seasonal flu vaccination campaign in mid October.

READ MORE: When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

In France, about 6.3 million people have received a second booster dose, “or 41 percent of the eligible population,” said the Directorate General of Health (DGS) to Ouest France.

Currently only those in high risk groups are eligible for a second booster shot, including pregnant women, the elderly those with medical conditions or carers – find the full list here.

As almost half of the eligible population have already received a fourth vaccine, many are wondering whether they will be eligible for a fifth (or third booster) in order to access the new dual-strain vaccine.  

According to Virginie, a representative from HAS – France’s health authority – the organisation “no longer thinks in terms of doses for high-risk people and immunocompromised patients.”

Specifically, the HAS recommends that a new injection be given – and if possible one of the dual-strain vaccines – “regardless of the number of injections received up to now”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster in France?

However, French health authorities specified that the additional booster should “respect the minimum recommended time between two doses.”

“This depends based on your profile – for people aged 80 and over, residents of nursing homes or long-term care units (USLD) and those who are immunocompromised, the wait-time is three months between jabs. For the others, the delay is set at six months.”

For those who have already been infected by Covid-19, the HAS recommends that if you are eligible for a second (or third booster) that the additional dose “is still recommended, with a minimum delay of three months after infection.”

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