Vaccinating Children Seen As A Key Step Toward COVID-19 Herd Immunity
Speaker 1: 00:00 Well, the clinical trials aimed at studying the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine on children. Well underway doctors across the nation are hearing the same question from anxious parents. When can my child get the vaccine, as we continue to expand our understanding of how the virus affects children and how a vaccine would protect them against it, the issues of in-person schooling and community spread linger in the minds of parents concerned about the wellbeing of their children. Joining me today to discuss the effort to vaccinate the nation's children is Dr. John Bradley a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rady children's hospital. Dr. Bradley. Welcome. Thank you so much for having me. So children are expected to be the final population group to be vaccinated against the virus. Is that still the best course of action? Given our evolving understanding of how COVID-19 can affect young, Speaker 2: 00:53 Actually it is the best approach and there are two reasons for that. First, as you know, children do really well with this infection. Um, in contrast to the adults, our adult hospitals were just overflowing with symptomatic patients and our, our hospital rarely had a word, a small word with COVID patients and our ICU was never full the way the adult ICU is where, so the, the actual infection itself, for reasons that we still don't know is very mild in children. Uh, we're now studying long-term effects to see if, if there are, uh, other long-term effects to the brain, to the kidneys, um, sort of like the multi-system inflammatory syndrome, we're looking at that, but the disease in children from the acute infection is, is very mild. And so you, you take that, uh, sort of less benefit for kids compared with adults, and then look at risk of new vaccines in children, especially new vaccines that haven't been widely used in children. Speaker 2: 02:09 And you want to balance the two. So I'm absolutely in favor of reviewing the adult data as, as we've all done to make sure that the safety and efficacy of these vaccines in adults is good. And of course there's ongoing follow-up so that the pediatric vaccine trials can be as safely put together as possible. And, and of course the dose of vaccine may be different between adolescent school aged kids, infants, uh, down to two months of age. So those sorts of studies that look at which dose to give kids and, and how safe and effective those doses are, are, are just now starting up. If the long-term on Speaker 1: 03:00 Children of COVID-19 is still a question, is it safe to send them back to school? Speaker 2: 03:05 I think it is. And I know everybody's worried about this. And, uh, and there's been a lot of discussion pro and con and, and, um, we don't have all of the information of course, which makes decisions very difficult to make, but, but given the fact that, uh, that the highest risk population at San Diego pick, uh, older people and those with underlying medical conditions are all on track to get vaccine now. And, and I think the biggest problem in sending kids back to school is that if they pick up infection and they bring it home to say grandparents and those grandparents are not immunized, you can have horrible consequences in that particular family when, when a grandparent gets sick, but the kids, as you know, well over half of them have no symptoms of this infection at all. So sending kids back to school is actually safe for kids, especially with all the guidance that, uh, that the San Diego County and the department of education, uh, and the California state guidance has put together where kids are wearing masks, there's distancing, uh, there's, there's cohorting th you know, classes are in bubbles. So you don't, you don't keep mixing up kids from different classes. You keep them consistent. I think it's a blueprint for a safe return to school, particularly when older folks are immunized and now teachers are being immunized and you, and you need to balance that with, with the, how difficult it is for children not to be in school, not learning, not having social interaction, making friends figuring out how life works. So lots of things to consider here. Speaker 1: 05:05 Can you explain to our listeners how vaccinating children is the final piece in achieving herd immunity within our population? Speaker 2: 05:12 So we've got a tremendous amount of information from influenza, and we've known for decades that unless you immunized kids, you'll still have circulation of the virus in the community. So as long as kids are spreading viruses in the community, these people, these high-risk adults will be intermittently exposed. And, and we don't want anyone to die from this or get hospitalized. So if you immunize all the children, then even though you may not be benefiting children as much as immunizations in adults, you will be preventing the spread of virus within the population. And in that way, you'll be protecting elderly and the adults at high risk. Speaker 1: 06:00 And as a pediatric doctor, what are some of the questions you're getting from parents who are worried about their children, contracting the virus, or who might even be unsure about vaccinating their children? Speaker 2: 06:11 Those are indeed all the questions that we're getting, and I wish I had more evidence-based answers to give them, but I I'm reassuring people that the infection itself in children is still mild. And thank goodness those data have been reproduced in every country, in the world where they've looked at it. Uh, the safety of the vaccine is another issue. And I have grandkids in San Diego and, and my son is asked me and daughter-in-law is it safe to Indianized my children? And so it's a very personal question to me. And I've told them yes, with what we know about these vaccines in millions of adults and knowing that the FDA and the vaccine companies and public health officials at the CDC will be tracking the safety of these vaccines and how effective they are in children. I feel comfortable that my own grandchildren should be immunized to provide herd immunity for San Diego, as well as protecting themselves from infection. Okay. Speaker 1: 07:18 I've been speaking with Dr. John Bradley, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rady children's hospital. Dr. Bradley, thank you so much for joining us. Speaker 2: 07:27 Thank you. Appreciate the opportunity to chat with you.