‘I just want the world to go back to normal’: COVID vaccine can’t come fast enough for girl, 11, struggling with long-term symptoms of virus

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A sore throat and cough were just the beginning of 11-year-old Alyssa Smith’s battle with COVID-19. After contracting the virus in October 2020, it hit her harder than her mom, dad and older sister.

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At about 10 days, when the illness was receding for the rest of her family, Alyssa began to develop rashes and hives on her hands and feet. Over time, the symptoms became more debilitating. She experienced brain fog, joint pain and severe shortness of breath, causing her to miss classes and swimming exercises.

A year later, her lung capacity hasn’t fully recovered and she still has mild joint pain, occasional rashes and, curiously, hiccups — what her doctor called an unusual “prolonged COVID” symptom. It is caused by inflammation in the nerve that controls hiccups.


Whatever she is doing, the grade 6 student is eager to get vaccinated and eventually get some protection from the virus.

“I want to get over this as soon as I can because I want the world to get back to normal,” Alyssa said from her home in Orangeville, Ont. “Because then I know I’m really safe.”

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Earlier this week, Health Canada said it had received a submission from Pfizer to authorize its vaccine for children ages five to 11, but there was no deadline for a decision. On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said soon after the decision the country would have enough supplies to vaccinate all children aged five to 11.

The question of whether or not they should get their little ones vaccinated will be big for parents in the coming months, not only for those whose children are about to turn 12, but also for those who Are concerned about side effects or whether a child really needs to be vaccinated.

In the first wave, medical experts noted that children’s bodies responded differently to COVID-19 infection and generally showed good results. But the delta version, which is more contagious, led to an increase in infections in children and young people.

And now there is evidence that children may experience long-term complications from COVID-19, a condition that the World Health Organization formally defined as a COVID-19 condition earlier this month. A study released by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Table last month cited a UK cohort study that examined children aged five to 17 years who tested positive between September 1, 2020 and January 24, 2021. did.

It was found that 4.4 percent experienced prolonged symptoms 27 days after their initial infection and 1.8 percent were still experiencing symptoms 56 days after infection.

Alyssa is one of those kids who have been affected by covid for a long time. Months after the initial infection, she experienced chest tightness that affected her ability to swim competitively.

“The physiotherapist couldn’t believe how tight his lungs were. She said her lungs felt like concrete,” said Alyssa’s mother, Cathy Smith.

Although she and her mother have mostly recovered now, they are still experiencing some symptoms about a year after the initial infection; Tinnitus and heart palpitations for Smyth, and constant shortness of breath for Alyssa.

For Smyth, Alyssa’s continued struggle underscores the deep impact of COVID-19 on a child’s health and the importance of vaccinations for children.

And while Alyssa is eager to get to the moment she deserves, it’s not so easy for her mother, who said she hasn’t decided whether she should get the kids’ doses as soon as possible or until Alyssa is 12. Wait till you are not old. Get adult shots.

“Our concern is that if she gets a child’s dose, but then she turns 12, do we get an adult dose a second time?” Smith explained.

Also, because the ELISA is closer to 12, she wonders whether the children’s dose will be effective enough because it contains about a third of the active ingredient in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“We don’t have any concerns about side effects … we want to make sure that the dose she’s getting is actually eliciting a large enough immune response to protect her,” Smith said.

Alyssa was diagnosed with prolonged COVID in December 2020 by Dr Anu Wadhwa, a Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician at the Hospital for Sick Children, who is studying and treating the COVID-19 condition.

In a statement, she said that research and clinical experience in sick kids shows that it is less common after COVID in children and young people than in adults, but it may still come with a longer recovery period. Is.

“It can take months for the symptoms to fully heal. For children and youth who face long recovery periods, there is a need for health care resources to support their rehabilitation, medical and psychological needs,” Wadhwa said.

Not all parents of children who have experienced COVID for a long time are eager to get their children vaccinated. Francine Powers and her daughter Mia are still experiencing the same symptoms as Smith described in March 2020, 19 months after being infected. At the time, she was not able to take the test because she did not meet the requirements.

Since the initial infection, her daughter still experiences eye irritation and digestive issues. Power has been diagnosed with COVID for a long time but her daughter has not.

Power said his experience with what he considers to be prolonged COVID-19 has shown how serious COVID-19 can be.

“We need to continue protecting children… I can’t stress enough to talk to everyone. It’s still out there and, yes, most of us have been vaccinated and we are safe, But we can still get longer symptoms,” Power said.

But still, she said she is concerned about the side effects of the children’s vaccine.

“There are a lot of unknowns right now. So with her I’m not 100 percent sure yet. She definitely won’t be the first line to get it because I know she has some natural antibodies,” Powers said.

Dr Anna Banerjee, a pediatrician and an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, said there is currently no reason to believe that children’s vaccines will have serious side effects.

“All parents want to protect their children. But I think the risk of COVID is much worse than the risk of, for example, myocarditis,” or inflammation of the heart, which is known as a rare side effect of the vaccine. As reported, usually from teenage boys to young men, Banerjee said. Nevertheless, it is reported to occur in about one in 70,000 cases.

As far as children who will soon turn 12 are concerned, Banerjee said early studies have tested the vaccine in children as young as 11 years and as close as 12 years and have received a “good response.”

The bottom line is that parents should get their children vaccinated as soon as they get the chance, she said.

“If my children were of that age, I would want them to be vaccinated as soon as possible,” Banerjee said. “Because I’ve seen what COVID can do.”

Omar Mosleh is an Edmonton-based reporter for Star. Follow him on Twitter: @OmarMosleh

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