Five questions about corona in children

Patricia Bruijning is a pediatric epidemiologist at UMC Utrecht, where she conducts research into the spread of infectious diseases and how she can protect society against them. Much of her research focuses on childhood vaccinations. Since the arrival of the coronavirus, she has focused entirely on the coronavirus, in particular the spread of the virus through children. In addition, she advises paediatricians on practical points about measures and regularly appears in the media to provide explanations. Bruijning is a member of our Corona think tank. Read the interview we had with her here.

UMC Utrecht

How is it possible that so many primary school children are now testing positive for corona?

“There are several reasons for that. At the moment corona is spreading throughout the Netherlands. Children are therefore also more likely to run into the virus and to pass it on. In addition, children under twelve have a lot of contact with each other. They go to school, but they can also easily pass on the virus while playing. Schools were closed during the previous lockdown, which made it less easy for corona to spread among children. Another difference is that more children are now being tested. Last year around this time, there were also children who got corona, but then there was only limited testing in primary schools.”

It has always been said that children are not great spreaders, but is that true?

“In principle, children cause less spread of corona than adults. But now that more adults are vaccinated and therefore less likely to get corona, the share of the spread of corona by children is increasing. In addition, we are currently dealing with the delta variant of the coronavirus. This is a much more contagious variant of the virus. So there are now more children who become infected with the virus than before and they pass it on more easily.”

How do you know that your child has corona?

“Often you can’t really know. Many children who have corona do not suffer from anything. If symptoms do appear, they are usually mainly cold complaints. Young children often catch a cold anyway, so many parents will not just have their child tested for corona. All you can do is pay close attention. If someone in the area turns out to have corona, you can have your child tested.”

Will the vaccination of children help us out of this pandemic faster?

Vaccinated adults are better protected against corona. Is it a good idea to vaccinate children under 12?

“That depends on the goal you want to achieve with it. If you want to prevent the spread in society as quickly as possible, then vaccinating children also seems to be a good option. After all, if no one gets corona anymore, they won’t pass it on either. But if the goal is for the children to stay healthy themselves, then vaccination may not be necessary. Healthy children often have little or no problems with corona.”

What can we do to prevent the spread of corona among children?

“In the first instance, we closed all schools and kept everyone at home. We have now noticed that this leads to learning delays and that it is generally not good for the development of the child. So we don’t really want that anymore. We could vaccinate the children, but that is not necessarily necessary for the child itself. You would mainly vaccinate them to prevent spreading, which is something we don’t actually do in the Netherlands. It only becomes difficult when the children infect adults, who then become very ill. To prevent that, it is most effective to vaccinate adults.”

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