Why do children easily tolerate COVID-19, what happens to those who get sick when they meet the virus, and should we be afraid of vaccinations?
Why do children easily cope with coronavirus?
Young children make up a very small proportion of those infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, and this has puzzled scientists since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Children, even if they become infected with this virus, tolerate the disease easily, or are even completely asymptomatic. The evidence now available to scientists helps explain this: the children’s immune system is better equipped to neutralize SARS-CoV-2 than the immune system of adults.
“The immune system of children reacts to the virus very quickly and efficiently, preventing it from multiplying enough to be detected by PCR analysis of a mucosal smear,” explained an immunologist at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia. She observed children under 10 years of age who, after a mild illness, developed corresponding antibodies, but the virus itself was not detected at any stage.
In a study involving about 30 adults and about fifty children, scientists found that children mainly produce antibodies that target the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which the virus uses to enter cells. According to scientists, the infection in children is not widespread, because the immune system has time to overcome the virus before it is produced in large quantities.
According to experts, the reason for the successful neutralization of the virus by children is that their T cells have not previously been exposed to coronaviruses. T cells are part of the adaptive immune system that recognizes pathogens that it has encountered. Untrained baby T cells may have an increased ability to respond to new viruses, scientists believe. This phenomenon is currently being studied.
But what about adults? And what happens if a person who has recovered from the coronavirus encounters COVID-19 again?
A large-scale study, in which 20 thousand UK health workers took part, confirmed that immunity after suffering a coronavirus infection lasts for months. However, those who have developed antibodies, after a second encounter with the virus, can become carriers of it and spread the infection.
An immune response to a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection reduces the risk of re-infection by more than 83% for at least five months after recovery. These are preliminary findings from a study released by the UK Department of Health.
“This is good news, it gives people a sense of confidence that the primary infection will protect them from future infection, but at the same time, it is not complete protection, and therefore, they still need to be careful outside the home,” Susan Hopkins, an epidemiologist at the Imperial College London, says.
Between June and November last year, researchers tracked the results of serological tests twice a month, that is, the response of the immune system, as well as PCR tests for the presence of the virus in those who were infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus before June, and in those who had not been infected before June. It turned out that the primary infection with SARS-CoV-2 protects 94% from the symptomatic course of re-infection and 75% from asymptomatic reinfection.
In addition, this study found that reinfected people can carry a high viral load in the nasal and throat mucous membranes even in asymptomatic cases, suggesting a high risk of transmitting the virus to others.
Therefore, masks should continue to be worn, experts say.
Then, perhaps, those who have been ill do not need to be vaccinated?
Experts say that even those who have already had a coronavirus infection should not give up the vaccine. Over time, the number of antibodies to COVID-19 decreases, and there is a risk of re-infection. In addition, it is still unknown how many antibodies provide reliable protection against the virus. Therefore, it will be useful to insure yourself and provide more powerful immunity.
Should we be afraid of vaccinations? Is it not dangerous to be vaccinated for people with chronic diseases and the elderly?
Since such people are especially at risk of a severe course of coronavirus infection, vaccination is vital for them. The only condition is that you need to be vaccinated without an exacerbation of a chronic disease. And of course, before getting vaccinated, it is better to contact your doctor. To reduce the manifestations of post-vaccination reactions, weakened patients are often prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs a few days before and after vaccination, asthmatics increase the dose of inhaled drugs, diabetics are advised to more closely monitor blood sugar levels, hypertensive patients are prescribed additional drugs for a short time to lower blood pressure. The scheme of preventive measures depends on the underlying disease, therefore it is important to carry them out under the supervision of your family doctor.
Is it true that it is not necessary to wear a mask after vaccination?
Experts say that no vaccination gives a 100% guarantee that you will not catch the coronavirus. It’s just that in vaccinated people, coronavirus infection is mild or asymptomatic. And such a person, without knowing it, can infect others. And if so, you still have to wear a mask.