Yes, the data obtained so far suggest the COVID vaccine is safe for kids, and right now there is no reason to believe why it wouldn’t be.
It is not true that there are worse side effects on kids. If anything, kids show fewer side effects than adults.
A lot of people have doubts and also argue that vaccination is not necessary given how little COVID seems to impact the kids. In other words, people think vaccination is not necessary because COVID-related fatality is significantly lower compared to adults. However, there are significant reasons which favor getting vaccinated as a kid.
The immune system is slightly different in kids than in adults. We have evidence from various other vaccines where we see long-term protection provided by vaccination during early age is significantly better than when vaccinated at later ages. While it hasn’t been established yet, it is likely that current COVID vaccines may provide better long-term protection if vaccinated early.
It is not clear what the long-term effects of COVID will be, obviously, as the virus is still new. If SARS and MERS data is to be taken as a reference point there is a likelihood that even after recovery in some patients there will be lasting systemic effects. Even a mild case of infection now may have a significant long-term effect that won’t be obvious until much later. A vaccine can protect from that.
Children are resilient and still growing. A case of infection that results in severe systemic inflammation can have profound effects on developing organs. As an example, (a different) infection induces rheumatic fever that can have devastating lifelong effects.
Hence, even though the immediate effects of COVID on kids may be minimal, a chance of severe disease or a lasting side effect is still a very scary thing. Vaccinate to avoid that.
It’s all but certain that COVID will be around for a long time. Although in the future, in all likelihood, it won’t be as disruptive as it is now. However, there will be outbreaks time and again and perhaps with newer variants. Research with COVID and other related coronaviruses also shows that over time (years) immunity against coronaviruses wanes. It’s not exactly clear why. Hence, the virus is likely to linger around in a subpopulation and make a comeback every few years.
We all know risk increases with age when it comes to COVID. The chance of developing severe symptoms and death is significantly higher as age progresses.
If you add all of this together, what we can infer is virus will be around, our kids will grow to become old (they always do), and with age, those who are kids today will become more vulnerable to the disease in the future. So it would make perfect sense to get them vaccinated early, and as we understand the long-term trends better get boosters at prescribed times and be safe as much as we can.
Even though tetanus is not a pandemic, we still get shots in a timely manner. Polio is not prevalent in most of the countries (including Nepal anymore) and yet we vaccinate our kids. The same thing can be said about most of the diseases there are vaccines for. We have vaccinated people against all sorts of diseases for decades and generations. And those vaccines were developed decades/generations ago (obviously!) At times with limited information. Now we have a far better understanding of immunity, disease, have better protocols and ethical standards. The data is available for analysis and scrutiny like never before. It’s simply mind-boggling how some people have twisted the issue, and to what end?
Please do ask questions and the scientific community has a civic duty to explain that. However, make no mistake having doubts and questions is very different than making and spreading false claims.
It’s one thing to ask and make sure a bridge can support you before crossing. But unless you understand bridge design, load-bearing capacity of materials used, weather parameters, etc, and have the right knowledge and tools to test those parameters you walking around the bridge and “researching” won’t provide any insights. You’ll have to rely on experts for determination and explanation.
The same can be said about vaccines. Unless you possess knowledge about vaccine development, immunity, disease progression, scientific data analysis a “research” comprised of reading Google search articles will not cut it. Wouldn’t you think with competing companies, countries, and scientists developing the same thing they would “out” competitors “lies”? Let’s ask questions and try to understand facts rather than stupefying ourselves with misinformation. It puts lives at risk and please let’s not do that.
Dr. Sudip is a Virology Research Fellow at the Department of Molecular Medicine Mayo Clinic, USA.
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