As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect us, emergency approval of the first COVID-19 vaccines has provided much-needed hope. Though this is welcome news, we can expect many more months of the pandemic life to continue. As consequences of the coronavirus continue to impact families and children – physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally – it’s time to increase our efforts to prevent the spread of the virus and help kids cope while vaccinations are deployed across India and the world.

We asked several of our healthcare experts to answer parents’ common questions about the disease, what we can control, and all the ways we can prevent the spread while supporting each other. Here’s what pediatric infectious disease and emergency medicine experts had to say.

What is the coronavirus?

The clinical name for the illness caused by this new coronavirus is COVID-19. The virus itself is called SARS-CoV-2, and it’s just one of many different coronaviruses. This virus has been identified as the cause of a respiratory illness outbreak first detected in China in 2019. With its spread to many countries, it became the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest on COVID-19

As time passes and scientific evidence comes to light, we’re learning more and more about the virus and how it affects kids. Here are some of the most recent findings that parents should know.

How close are we to vaccinating the general public?

All above the age of 18 in the general public have begun receiving the vaccine. But it will take a lot of time before we are able to receive a level that will help us with heard immunity. Experts agree that we will require 70% to 85% of the population to be immune either due to vaccination or previous infection to achieve heard immunity. It takes time to produce the vaccine and then vaccinates millions of people. Public health officials have started by vaccinating those who are more likely to be exposed to the coronavirus – like healthcare workers – and those who are more likely to become severely ill with COVID-19 – like the elderly and people with high-risk medical conditions.

Also, it takes time to ensure that the vaccine is safe and effective for all groups. So far there is limited information about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in children younger than 16, and studies are ongoing. We’ll learn more as additional trials are completed and as more data becomes available in the coming months. But what we’ve seen so far is promising.

When will children older than 16 with high-risk medical conditions be vaccinated?

As more adults across the country get vaccinated against COVID-19, researchers are turning their attention to studying the vaccine in children and teens. Trials are now underway in several countries in children as young as 6 months.

What do parents need to know about the new coronavirus variants?

Recently, several new coronavirus “variants,” have made international headlines. Scientists and doctors are watching several of them closely. Here’s what parents need to know about the main variants being reported in the news.

It’s important to know that viruses mutate naturally, and scientists expect new variants of viruses as they spread. There have been multiple mutations of the virus since it first emerged, though most have not affected the function of the virus until recently. What’s different now is that some versions of the new coronavirus have mutated enough that they have changed how the virus works: mostly how easily it spreads.

What we know: 

  • There are three variants of concern, each named after the first place they were documented: the U.K., South African, and Brazilian.
  • What the variants have in common:
    • All three variants have been reported in India
    • All three are more infectious than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.
    • Because they can spread more efficiently, one or more may become more dominant very quickly.

Will the vaccines we have to prevent the new variants of the virus?

Although concerning, we can still use the same methods to prevent the spread of these variants, and fortunately, data suggests that the vaccines still prevent against severe disease and death from these variants.

So, we have learned that viruses can’t mutate if they can’t replicate. That means stopping the spread of the coronavirus using all of the available tools including vaccines is the best solution. Continue to help kids keep their distance from people, wear masks and avoid crowds and traveling. Families need to maintain these above measures even after being vaccinated up until the transmission is very low in our country.

About the coronavirus

What are the signs and symptoms of the coronavirus?

Symptoms include fever, cough, muscle aches, headache, and tiredness. Some people also develop shortness of breath and loss of smell and taste.

How long does it take to develop symptoms?

People develop symptoms between 2 and 14 days after exposure (5 days on average). This is called the coronavirus incubation period. Most people will get better within a few weeks, but those with a severe case may take up to a month or more to recover.

How does the coronavirus impact kids and teens?

The good news is that most children tend to have mild forms of the illness. Infections in kids up to 18 years of age ranges from infection without symptoms, to mild upper respiratory symptoms with runny nose and cough, to pneumonia requiring hospitalization.

If kids get the coronavirus and recover, can they get it again?

We still have many questions about how the immune system reacts to the new coronavirus. While it isn’t common, findings from some recent studies suggest that it is possible to be infected a second time. 

Is there a cure for the coronavirus?

While there is no cure for the coronavirus, doctors and scientists are making progress in finding new and effective treatments.

Getting medical care for the coronavirus

What should I do if my child is sick?

If your child is ill, first contact your doctor to discuss their symptoms and determine whether your child should be tested for the coronavirus. If you do not have a pediatrician or if you have questions about where to get care, please contact our free Smart Parent Healthline number.

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