COur experiences and common sense prove that prevention is more effective than treating. The days when children were paralysed by polio are gone. Many children are now suffering from severe meningitis. It is no longer possible to prevent influenza from affecting hundreds of thousands of children each year. Preventative medicine is of vital importance, particularly in the context of vaccination.
As with most medical decisions, it is important to weigh the benefits and risks when making decisions about patients. We had limited information when we started our COVID-19 response. We have a wealth of information on COVID-19 thanks to two years of providing medical care and research. Both the scientific and medical communities have provided us with clear data to show the truth about COVID-19 in children.
Unfortunately, more than 1,000 children have died and over 7,400 children have the rare condition multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MISC), which is caused by COVID-19. We also are just learning about long-COVID in children, many of whom have not been hospitalized, and may have extreme fatigue, headaches, and “brain-fog,” which can persist for months after COVID-19.
COVID-19 now accounts for the sixth most common cause of death among children under 15. In contrast, 200 children can die in an influenza season, and up to 20,000 will be hospitalized. Due to the influenza vaccines and other factors, children are now less likely to die from influenza.
The truth is that COVID-19 works better for children than it does for adults. Children under 18 are less likely than those over 65 to require hospitalization and 65 percent less likely than to die due to COVID-19. COVID-19 is a serious illness that can lead to death in children. Over 4.8 million children became infected during the Omicron wave. More than 35,000 were also admitted. Around 20% of the Omicron wave’s children were admitted to intensive care units. These children did not have a vaccine.
People believe severe COVID-19 (which can cause death or require hospitalization) only applies to children who are suffering from underlying medical conditions. It is incorrect. Nearly 40% are not suffering from underlying medical conditions. Conditions that increase a child’s risk for hospitalization include asthma, obesity, and diabetes, to name a few. Severe COVID-19 has been linked to mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that over half of the children who had COVID-19 infection in the past six months do not develop antibodies. This suggests that previous infections may not protect them. Thus, from a physician’s point of view, to protect children from severe COVID-19 and death, it is impossible for us to say one child should have the vaccine but not another.
The FDA approved COVID-19 vaccines for children have been shown to be very effective at reducing severe COVID-19. Two doses of the vaccines can prevent children aged 5-17 years old from needing hospitalization. A second, peer-reviewed study has also shown protection against serious illness. The U.S. hospitalizes 700-900 children for every 100,000 COVID-19 positive. This is a result of more than 500 preventable hospitalizations for every 100,000 fully-vaccinated children. This means there will be fewer pediatric deaths, and less risk for long-COVID and MISC. COVID-19 will not be as common in children. This means there will be fewer spreads to teachers, classmates and other family members.
The value of a vaccine is important, but so are potential side effects. The data we have now is about 37 million COVID-19 doses that were given to kids aged between five and seventeen years. A small number of children suffer from non-serious side affects, including dizziness, headache, fever. One in every 1,000,000 doses of vaccine can cause serious side effects. These include myocarditis and heart inflammation. The risks associated with COVID-19 are extremely low compared to the potential for death or hospitalization in children.
Concerns have been raised regarding the possible link between myocarditis, the COVID-19-vaccine and it. We have a lot of information on this issue. The highest-risk group is teenage boys. Myocarditis occurs after vaccination. There have been no deaths among individuals younger than 30 years old and most cases have made a complete recovery. The risk of developing myocarditis in someone younger than 16 is 130 for every 100,000. As a result, the myocarditis rate for children who get COVID-19 is 25 times higher than that of those who do not receive it.
The public is expected to play an increasing role in the prevention and control of COVID-19. It’s important for parents and children as well as healthcare professionals to have the facts. Consider the facts before making a decision on whether your child should be vaccinated against COVID-19. Talk to your healthcare provider and discuss the potential risks and benefits. If parents didn’t balance the benefits and risks of vaccines for children, imagine how many children could be left paralyzed by polio or suffer from meningitis.
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