Unfortunately, the number of people infected with COVID-19 has increased and there are many more children getting sick. We knew that once the schools were reopened — and especially because we had no vaccine for the children and many of the adults around them weren’t getting vaccinated — that outbreaks would happen.
Be reassured though that the virus isn’t “smart”. In the same way that water spilled on the floor will “find” a hole and leak through, the virus “finds” those who aren’t infected.
What can we do to protect our kids? Vaccinating everyone, washing hands, maintaining a safe distance, improving ventilation, and wearing a mask, work. The good news is that Pfizer has recently reported encouraging results for the use of their COVID-19 vaccine in children from 5 to 11 years old. They already have approval in children as young as 12. The company submitted the data to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Children aren’t tiny adults. Their body metabolism and the way that they handle medications isn’t the same, so the company had to prove that the vaccine worked and was safe in children. They reduced the dosage by a third, but it’s the same regimen of two shots separated by at least three weeks.
I am hopeful that Health Canada will also approve the pediatric version of this vaccine, making it available for our children. Moderna is doing studies on pediatric versions of their vaccine and Pfizer has ongoing ones looking at vaccinating children as young as 6 months with results of all these studies expected soon.
But why are we referring to these vaccines by the company that makes them rather than a name? Each of the three approved vaccines in Canada has a commercial name: Pfizer-BioNtech is Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine; Moderna is Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine; and AstraZeneca is Vaxzevria COVID-19 vaccine.
However, until September 16, all three only had emergency approval in Canada. Therefore, the companies could not advertise or promote the vaccines, which could only be referred to by mentioning the company and the indication, not the trade name.
As of Sept 16, those trade names are the way by which we can refer to the vaccine, if we choose to. Given the fact that we have used one name for so long I don’t think there will be a lot of enthusiasm to change that now. But who knows? To quote the Bard: “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet” (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Sc 2).
I am grateful for the fact that we have vaccines that work and look forward to being able to protect our children. The risk to them isn’t limited to developing COVID. There have been deaths in children from this disease (up to 500 and counting in the US). There is also a significant danger of long-term symptoms such as brain fog, shortness of breath and chest pain — just to name a few of the so called long-COVID symptoms — that will interfere with their lives.
The Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), is a serious condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes. The greater the number of children who get sick with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the greater the number of all these complications. So, it makes sense to do all that we can do to protect our children.
Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at McGill Medical School as well as an Attending Physician in the Emergency Department of the McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.