Most Canadian kids will be exposed to COVID within the year: CMA president | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Most Canadian kids will be exposed to COVID within the year: CMA president

It will be virtually impossible for school children to avoid COVID, according to the president of the Canadian Medical Association.

“Because (the) delta (variant) is so contagious and the way it’s spreading, we know that most children are likely to be exposed to the virus within a year,” Dr. Katharine Smart said during a Zoom meeting with parents yesterday, Nov. 23.

“It’s going to be hard to avoid it forever and, as society gets back to normal, there’s going to be more opportunities for exposure. So, it’s kind of coming your way, whether you like it or not.”

Dr. Smart, who is a pediatrician in Whitehorse, YT, was talking mostly about children aged five to 11 who are now eligible to get a pediatric version of the COVID vaccine starting Monday, Nov. 29. That age group tends to only have mild symptoms of the disease and tend to be hospitalized at the same rate as influenza or other preventable diseases.

Only 60 of almost 16,000 children in B.C. aged five to 11 who have been infected with COVID have been hospitalized..

The weekly rate of infection in that age group is slowing as the spread of COVID in the province as a whole is slowing, but infections are more than three times higher than those in the 12 to 17 age group who have been getting vaccinated since May.

READ MORE: Vaccines for children available in B.C. starting Monday

Even with mild or no symptoms, children can get “long covid” that can last for weeks or months.

Canadian studies are finding 4% to 14% of children who get COVID go on to get long COVID. Dr. Smart expects, when the studies are all done, it will end up that around 3% will get long COVID.

“What does it look like?” Dr. Smart said. “For most children, it’s persistent fatigue, headache, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating – some people call that a brain fog – and ongoing muscle, joint pain and cough.”

She stressed that the vaccine is safe and that it doesn’t effect fertility, genetics or hormones. Having been infected once doesn’t give the same level of immunity so even those who have been infected should get vaccinated, she said.

It’s also vitally important to have children vaccinated because it will allow things to get back closer to normal because children have all been negatively impacted by COVID, she said.

“The biggest impact we’ve seen in Canada is on the social side – the lockdowns, the school closures the loss of activities, the loss of connection with friends and family,” Dr. Smart said. “There are increased concerns with mental health and an increase in eating disorders, especially in teenagers.”

The eating disorders have contributed to a rise in childhood obesity, which is one of the biggest risk factors for children getting very sick with COVID, she said.

READ MORE: Obesity likely the biggest risk factor for children getting hospitalized with COVID

“None of us, I don’t think, want to continue living these very abnormal pandemic kind of lives any longer than is necessary,” Dr. Smart said. “I think it’s really important for kids to be able to return to their fun activities at both school and extracurricular and, really, for kids to get back to being kids again.”

Parents are asked to register their children on the Get Vaccinated B.C. website here. Invitations to book vaccination appointments will start going out Monday.

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