COVID-19 affects young children less severely than older adults, but parents are still coping with the stress that their kids could be vectors of transmission.
Global News’ Raquel Fletcher spoke with Dr. Christos Karatzios, a pediatric infectious diseases assistant professor at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, about the questions parents might have, like wearing masks in schools and what parents need to know about the new vaccines.
Raquel Fletcher: Do we know why COVID-19 affects children under 10 differently?
Dr. Christos Karatzios: This is still being studied. There are multiple explanations and theories that we are looking at. The first one is the number of receptors that children have that do not allow the huge viral load to infect the child. The coronavirus family is a family of viruses that can also cause the common cold. So if children get common colds more often than adults do, they may have some pre-existing immunity.
Another theory that has been floated is whether the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine that is given in childhood, whether someone who is closer to their last measles, mumps and rubella vaccine fares better in reaction to Sars-CoV-2.
RF: That’s very interesting. When it comes to schools, this has been a big debate since the summer. Should kids be in schools or should there be some sort of hybrid between in-school learning and online learning?
CK: My educated bias has always been that children above five years of age should wear masks. School is important. Kids need to be there with their peers. They need to see the teacher, they need to sit down, and not be at home on laptops all day.
So my take on this whole thing is yes, schools need to be open, especially for younger kids, but there need to be mitigation strategies in the school. You can’t pack 60 kids in a class, you have to have them at least two metres away from each other and wearing masks in class, including the teachers, all day. Unfortunately, for many schools here in Montreal and around the world, actually, there’s no good ventilation inside classrooms… To have air circulating, I think that will be just as important as wearing a mask and being socially distant.
2021 will be much, much better. And there’s a light at the end of the tunnel called vaccines.
RF: We do know there are a number of people, a significant part of the population who have concerns about taking the vaccine.
CK: I think there is a lot of vaccine hesitancy stemming from the impression that these vaccines have been rushed, which is far from the truth. What people should understand is that all that bureaucratic red tape has been condensed… The trial is the same. It was all that in-between bureaucracy that was reduced purposefully this time.
RF: So some comfort for parents over this Christmas break.
CK: There’s a lovely Italian song that says, ‘Let’s stay apart today so we can hug and kiss tomorrow.’ I think that is a message that everyone should understand.