While there are widespread reports that children experience milder symptoms and suffer fewer complications from the coronavirus than adults, paediatricians are warning that the issue is much bigger than previously thought.
“It seems that the number of children infected with the virus in South Africa is higher than what we believe it is. While it is true that children do not seem to be as adversely affected as adults by the virus, we are seeing a large number of children who are asymptomatic, and this is worrying because they could be spreading the virus,” cautions Dr Iqbal Karbanee, paediatrician and CEO of Paed-IQ BabyLine,a trusted telephonic medical advice service for the first 1000 days of a child’s life, starting from conception to birth and beyond.
Data suggests that children under the age of 18 years represent about 8.5% of reported cases, with relatively few deaths compared to other age groups. News reports are now suggesting that children may also be more susceptible to the new strains of the virus, without serious consequences. However, there is very limited data available on the number of children who are asymptomatic.
“This is why it is important for children to practice social distancing and hand-washing, even if they do not appear ill, as they can pass the disease on to family members, or others,” says Karbanee.
People aged 60 and older or with existing health conditions remain the most vulnerable to the coronavirus. That includes people with conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory conditions.
Dr Karbanee says that there have also been few pregnant women who have had complications as a result of the virus, and those who have had the virus have gone to have babies who have been fine.
But should pregnant women consider getting the vaccine?
“If you are a high risk patient and pregnant, I urge you to consider taking the vaccine, provided that you have discussed it with your doctor,” says Dr Karbanee, adding that high risk includes being overweight, being diabetic or having a lung disease.
He says that, given the risk of complications from COVID-19 should a mom-to-be a high risk patient, the vaccine offers a relatively safe guard against the Coronavirus.
“The vaccine is not a live virus-based vaccine, unlike the Polio vaccine for example. This vaccine is made from a protein extract from the virus, which, when you get exposure to it, lowers your risk of getting extreme symptoms. There have been very few side effects recorded by those who have taken the vaccine.”
Karbanee says that each case should be seen on its individual merits and if pregnant women are concerned, they should discuss their worries and the possibility of getting the vaccine, with their doctor and medical team.