Six months ago, in the hustle and bustle of Christmas activities, I quickly swabbed my girls’ noses (and my own) for COVID-19. Their ages are three and one-half years. Although no one was showing symptoms, we went with them to their great-grandpa to ensure that they were all safe. An epidemiologist, it was obvious that we were experiencing a COVID-19 tsunami. Children are great silent transmitters of COVID-19 and seniors are most at risk of severe breakthrough infections. Fifteen minutes later and much to my surprise, my girls’ tests indicated that they were positive. My husband and I had received a booster one months prior to our test and were never positive. Our plans were changed, it was obvious. We spent Christmas home instead of spending time with our families.
Millions of Americans experienced a version of the same thing. Although we experienced only minor symptoms, many others suffered from severe side effects. This wave saw an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations for children younger than 5 years. Eighty-six% of these hospitalizations took place in hospitals. Please see the following: COVID-19 (opposed With COVID-19). The number of children admitted to hospital for influenza has risen significantly and is far higher than the COVID-19 peak. 1 out of 4 toddlers admitted for COVID-19 were admitted to an ICU. This added significantly to the COVID-19 mortality rate for toddlers. More than 400 children younger than 4 have been killed by the virus. COVID-19 has the highest death rate for toddlers under 4 years old than any vaccine-preventable disease. COVID-19 also ranks among the top 10 causes of death for children overall.
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Of course, up until now, this age group wasn’t eligible for vaccination against COVID-19. After rigorous clinical trials, as well as setbacks (Pfizer-BioNTech tried to adjust the dosage and number of shots), the FDA granted an emergency authorization. The CDC recommended COVID-19 vaccinations for children as young as six months. 75% have contracted the virus in children younger than 18. Even my girls. But, I will get the vaccine for my girls as soon as possible.
There are many reasons why I’m getting my children vaccinated when they’ve already had COVID-19.
It is quite common to be reinfected by other viruses and it should not be taken lightly with SARS-2. Reinfections with COVID19 are becoming more frequent. Recent scientific evidence has shown that children younger than 18 years old are at risk of COVID19 reinfections. failed to make antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 after confirmed infection (the immune system’s first line of defense) and had mediocre T-cell responses (the immune system’s second line of defense). This isn’t surprising. It is dependent on the severity and quality of the infection that an immune response will produce. Children who have had milder infections, which is quite common, will probably be protected more effectively. This means we aren’t confident as to what will happen when they come into contact with the virus again, and I want my girls to have optimal protection.
Omicron also changes very rapidly. SARS CoV-2 is also mutating at a four-fold faster rate than the flu. Scientific evidence has shown that neutralizing antibodies against an Omicron infection (from variants BA.1 and BA.2) in winter does not provide protection against Omicron variants (called BA.4/5). Neutralizing antibodies also diminish rapidly. Odds are, six months after an infection, my girls’ first line of defense is largely gone (if they even got adequate antibodies in the first place). While it’s clear we need second-generation vaccines for long-term protection against infection, like the nasal vaccines, a vaccine right now, in the middle of a surge, will help prevent infection temporarily (and reduce the chances of Long COVID).
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Unfortunately, our ability to predict the future is not very good. There is evidence that Omicron infects unvaccinated persons but does not generate neutralizing antibodies for other concerns. Omicron may be the predominant variant at the moment, but that could change. However, infection-induced immunity is not a good option if there are other variants that prove to be more serious. Unfortunately, we don’t know when the next variant of concern will come. This could happen tomorrow. In 10 years, it could happen. But if it happens tomorrow, then I will protect my daughters.
Being vaccinated plus recovering from a past infection is called “hybrid immunity,” and more than 20 studies of adults have shown that hybrid immunity significantly increase in broad protection against infection and severe disease for a longer time. Infection-inducible immunity targets all viruses, while vaccine immunity protects against spike proteins. This doesn’t mean we should purposefully expose our children to COVID-19, but we do need to recognize the strong protection this combination offers.
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Finally, it is completely safe. Both the Moderna clinical trial and Pfizer clinical trial showed minimal side effects. The vaccine caused a lot of fatigue and irritability in toddlers. One-fourth of Moderna recipients also had fever. This is normal for young child vaccines. However, these were minor symptoms that showed the vaccine was working. Both clinical trials did not report any myocarditis cases. It was quite remarkable, but not surprising. Unfortunately, the trials weren’t large enough to detect such an uncommon event. Myocarditis following mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in infants is expected to be very rare based on safety monitoring of children aged 5-11 years. This could be due to the smaller dosages of RNA in these children and myocarditis that are fundamentally different. The data will be closely monitored. However, myocarditis can still be contracted in children from an infection. This is worse than the myocarditis that occurs after vaccination. Because of our knowledge of the ingredients, long-term severe adverse events are not expected from vaccines. Since the 1990s scientists have studied mRNA vaccines. Extensive real-world data, which includes older adults and pregnant women, has shown that the COVID-19 vaccine proves to be safe and effective.
It’s been more than seven months since the CDC recommended COVID-19 vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds. Our youngest children have been patiently waiting since then. The benefits from these new recommended vaccines are clear to me. My goal this week is to get my daughters protection against the vaccine-preventable disease. Please join me to get your kids’ protection.
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