There are no two ways about it – Covid19 has thrown a monkey wrench into the well-greased cogs of our lives & livelihoods, sending life, as we once knew it, into complete disarray. Add to that the uncertainty of the vaccine rollout; the after-effects of which, are yet to be completely understood. While a growing population of adults in various countries are getting the jab, there is a sizeable population of anti-vaxxers as well. To add yet another layer of apprehension is the fact that there isn’t sufficient data of vaccine testing on children, however, what we do know is that kids are vulnerable and would need some form of protection against the deadly disease.
The past two years has seen us fearfully go through various states and stages of lockdowns. Uncertainty scares us. We humans like things in control. We like knowing what happens next. It’s going to be about a year since the vaccine roll out for adults. Fearfully and cautiously people have crept to their nearest vaccination centre to get the jab. Yes, there have been some horror stories of death and severe adverse reactions after getting the vaccination. However, this happens with almost every new medication or vaccination. It’s part of the trial process. Unfortunately, this time we do not have the luxury of time for full-fledged testing, and hence, the emergency use authorization (EUA) of vaccines has been granted. It is no surprise that parents are concerned about the effects (or ill-effects?) of the vaccine on their children and in a dilemma whether to vaccinate or not.
If you’ve been closely following the news since the Covid19 pandemic broke out, you would probably realize that the majority of infections and fatalities due to the disease has been observed in adults. This may lead you, as a parent, to question whether children are that vulnerable or need the vaccine. The answer is, yes. Experts believe that everyone 5 years and above must get vaccinated. Pediatric versions of most of the Covid vaccines developed for adults are being rolled out or in the final stages of approval.
It is almost impossible to pin point children who may be more susceptible to the virus. However, like in adults, getting the jab will dramatically reduce their chances of serious complications or death. Experts found that the vaccine was over 90% effective in preventing Covid19 in children aged between 5 and 11 years. It also prevented the spread of Covid19 to older adults that are more vulnerable and in contact with youngsters. More kids getting vaccinated also means higher chances of developing herd immunity – which is overall a good thing.
Another aspect involving children is that they are less likely to follow strict masking and sanitation rules like washing hands, not touching their faces and so on. This makes it even more crucial to offer them protection before they venture back to school or interact with friends.
After successful clinical trials, the US FDA granted emergency use authorization (EUA) of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5-11 years. The vaccine is intended to be administered in two doses three weeks apart and is a lower dose compared to the one administered to adults. While data is constantly being recorded, studied, and analyzed, no serious side effects have been reported in children.
The mild side effects are similar to the ones in adults, such as lowered appetite, fatigue, fever, pain at the injection site (sore arm), headache, joint pain etc. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assures that all known and potential benefits of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine far outweigh any known or potential risks in children as young as 5 years old.
Rumours and conspiracy theories, can contribute to vaccine hesitancy. According to UNICEF a staggering 43% citizens believe in conspiracy theories relating to concealment of information about the harmful effects of vaccines. During the pandemic, several conspiracy theorists painted a grim picture of how scientific R&D is conducted and the provisional nature of scientific consensus. There have been theories as ridiculous as contracting HIV from the Covid19 Vaccine, to tiny electronic chips being secretly implanted into recipients along with the vaccine, all the way up to theories on how the vaccine causes infertility and premature mortality.
Recently Emerald Robinson, Newsmax’s White House correspondent, tweeted out “the vaccines contain a bioluminescent marker called LUCIFERASE so that you can be tracked. Read the last book of the New Testament to see how this ends.” Now the enzyme Luciferase has nothing to do with Lucifer. A little analysis proves how ridiculous such theories are. For example, fireflies use firefly luciferin or (4S)-2-(6-hydroxy-1,3-benzothiazol-2-yl)-4,5-dihydrothiazole-4-carboxylic acid. An interesting analysis, by Marc Branham, appeared in Scientific American. Marc is an assistant professor in the department of entomology and nematology at the University of Florida, and he explains how oxygen combines with calcium, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and luciferin (a chemical) in the presence of luciferase, a bioluminescent enzyme, as a result – light is produced. Nothing diabolical about that.
Vaccine hesitancy is the world’s top threat to public health safety, and this is not mere hearsay. This is in fact recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), especially in low-middle income countries. There are several reasons for reluctance to getting the jab, for e.g., it could be simply due to a lack of knowledge, false religious beliefs or even misinformation spread by anti-vaxxers. Whatever the case, this reluctance could lead to dangerous outcomes, including but not limited to the emergence of more deadly variants, like the AY.4.2, a subvariant of the Delta variant of coronavirus, or another deadly wave that could cripple life and our economies into an abyss that would be very difficult to emerge from. What we need to understand is that we are all in this fight together against the pandemic. It’s humanity against Covid19. We need to trust the scientists, believe the experts, get the jab, encourage others to get it too and till then continue to practice social distancing, wear our masks, and wash our hands as often as we can.
This opinion is © 2020-21 S. B. Ryder.
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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this commentary are the authors own. The perspectives, ideas and statistics mentioned herein are not to be taken as medical advice. Contact your medical practitioner before reaching any conclusion.