The Covid-19 pandemic took a deadly toll on adults in the United States for two years, while children were largely saved from adding to the dire statistics.
But the rapid spread of the Omicron variant has led to registered pediatric infections and hospitalizations in the country, and misinformation about vaccinations telling parents the injections are dangerous increases the risk.
The chance that young people will die from Covid-19 remains low. The shots significantly reduce the chances of serious illness, and vaccinated mothers may protect their babies, but the hesitancy of the vaccine being pushed online leaves parents and children vulnerable.
Phoenix Children’s Hospital doctor Wassim Ballan said fighting misinformation has become part of his job, from concerns that the injections have developed too quickly to false claims that the shots could affect future fertility.
“Unfortunately, often when we have this time with a family to discuss these things is when the child is already in the hospital,” he said of the issue.
Parents need to understand that the vaccines are “the most important tool for protection”, especially to prevent multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a rare and dangerous complication that can follow a mild Covid-19 infection.
In the United States, only 27 percent of children ages five to 11 have received their first dose of the vaccine. Hospital admissions reached a pandemic high of 914 children a day this month, a dramatic increase from the previous peak of 342 in September 2021.
Protection from the womb
In the first week of January 2022, Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston reported 12 babies in intensive care with Covid-19.
Babies are too young for the Covid-19 shot, but Kathryn Gray, treating physician for maternal-fetal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said research is increasingly showing that vaccination during pregnancy leads to antibodies being safely transferred to the baby , which offers limited protection.
Expectant mothers have also shown hesitation to get the injection after being barred from initial clinical trials.
Gray is one of those watching the situation. “To date, there are no safety signals” in the data, she said, adding that she is “very confident” telling patients that the injection is safe during pregnancy for mother and baby.
“If they really want to protect their babies, vaccination is the thing that will protect them the most right now.”
Health authorities around the world are saying the same thing, but the initial lack of data is still being exploited in vaccine-opposed social media posts. Posts on Facebook and Twitter claimed that stillbirths rose following pressure to vaccinate pregnant people, although going unprotected against the disease is the greater risk.
Epidemiologists Carla DeSisto and Sascha Ellington of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said data from 1.2 million U.S. births “showed no evidence that stillbirth rates are generally higher during the pandemic.”
But their research did reveal the risks of contracting the virus during pregnancy.
“Compared to pregnant people without Covid-19, pregnant people with Covid-19 are at an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth and stillbirth,” the researchers said by email.
Breastfeeding has also been the target of misinformation, with reports claiming that babies developed skin rashes or even death when breastfed from a vaccinated mother.
The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine recommends vaccination for those who are breastfeeding and says there is no reason to stop breastfeeding after receiving the vaccine.
Misinformation was increasingly common in private Facebook groups where parents connect to share and sell breast milk, group moderators told AFP. In one of the largest such groups, Bethany Bristow said she was concerned about requests for “unvaccinated milk.”
The New York mother, along with her fellow moderators, decided to ban such requests, and the rules for her group of more than 10,500 parents now state: “Advertising or requesting vaccine-free milk puts you, your children, and the community at risk.” .”
Studies find specific benefits of milk from a vaccinated mother, according to Laura Ward, co-director of the Center for Breastfeeding Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
“Antibodies have been found in the breast milk of vaccinated breastfeeding women. This means that breastfed infants may have some protection against Covid-19 if their mothers receive the vaccine,” she said.
Gray agreed. “Breast milk is full of antibodies based on a person’s previous exposure to both vaccines and infections. Those things don’t pose a risk to infants, they’re actually helpful in protecting them,” she said.
“Any concerns or unknown pieces about the vaccine are dwarfed by the risk of Covid.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)