Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which arose as a pandemic in last few years and has taken a drastic human toll with its economic and social impacts reverberating globally.
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses belonging to the family of Coronaviridae, which infect both animals and humans and can causes illnesses such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
This virus is highly contagious and transmits through air. When an infected person breathes or sneezes the small airborne particles containing the virus gets suspended into the surroundings. Once a non-infected person inhales the virus-contaminated air the virus enters the healthy body manifesting the infection. The risk of transmission is highest when people are in close proximity, or indoors and even by contaminated surfaces.
COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Most infected people will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization. Signs and symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure. Most common symptoms include fever, cough, and tiredness, loss of taste or smell. The less common symptoms include sore throat, headache aches and pains, diarrhea, a rash on skin, or discoloration of fingers or toes, red or irritated eyes etc. Certain medical conditions that may increase the risk of serious illness from COVID-19 include serious heart diseases, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, obesity, asthma, high blood pressure, Chronic kidney and lung disorders etc.
Preventive measures and health advisories to avert coronavirus infection include immunization, staying indoors, wearing a mask in public, evading crowded places, keeping a safe distance from others, ventilating indoor spaces, managing potential exposure durations, washing hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly, practicing good respiratory hygiene, and avoiding touching the eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
The COVID-19 outbreak has shaken the global health system by its very roots and researches have brought to light the fact that vaccination is the only effective and economical means to tide over this pandemic. Many research institutions and pharmaceutical companies worldwide worked twitchily and succeeded splendidly. It was back in 2020, that the first COVID-19 vaccine was successfully formulated and effectively administered to the masses. Initially, most COVID-19 vaccines were two dose regimen, however, it was later observed that the immunity from the vaccines wanes over a period of time and thus, the need of booster shots arose. But since these vaccines were formulated in a race against time, its effects on young developing children could not be established and were in trial stages till date.
A breakthrough has been achieved in the field of medicines by the United States as COVID-19 vaccine for infants and toddlers got the long awaited approval. The United States has taken a colossal step forward by becoming the first country in the world to offer vaccination with highest efficacy for younger children; counting infants and toddlers. The US government initiated the drive by administering several shots of coronavirus vaccines to the youngest children of the states, under the flagship of US President Joe Biden.
This breakthrough achieved by the global pharmaceutical giants, Moderna and Pfizer, has facilitated 10 million shots of vaccine for children with roll outs of millions of shot underway. A comprehensive research and various clinical trials over thousands of children were carried out by these pharmaceutical market players, which was further reviewed by the FDA before the complete approval and mass distribution. The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee has also deemed that the benefits of both vaccines outweigh the risks and has observed that the vaccines have been "well-tolerated" among the children who got it administered during the clinical trials. Several other studies were also performed which finally signaled the vaccine to have optimum safety and maximum efficacy for toddlers and infants. Currently, a panel of experts from The European Medicines Agency is reviewing the Moderna vaccine for its effectiveness and safety for use in young children.
Proposed Vaccination Module for Children
Moderna has proposed a two-dose primary series, with doses given four weeks apart, each of 25 micrograms, for children between six months to five years. In comparison, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be administered as a three-shot regimen, each of 3 micrograms, for children between six months to four years, in a span of eleven weeks which is slightly longer period. According to clinical trial data, both the vaccines induce few mild and common side effects which include pain at the injection site, headache, fever, chills and fatigue.
Taking a holistic look at the two immunizations, it is imperative to bring out here that Moderna's vaccine uses a larger dose and has a higher likelihood of inducing fever viz-a-viz Pfizer's. However, it has been claimed by the developers that these are not dangerous side effects and are manageable with medications like acetaminophen.
Why was COVID Vaccination for children needed?
Although the researchers claimed that the children aged from six months to four years have minimal risk of COVID manifestation, but in US alone, the sheer levels of infections witnessed has been more than 45000 hospitalization and nearly 500 deaths in the age group 0-4 years. This situation triggered the immediate need to formulate a safe and effective vaccine for children in order to prevent this crisis.
How can COVID be treated?
There are no specific, effective treatments or cures for coronavirus disease but several medications have been approved in different countries to control and reduce the COVID-related infections. Patients with mild to moderate symptoms are advised to take nirmatrelvir/ritonavir (marketed as Paxlovid) or remdesivir, which reduce the risk of serious illness or hospitalization. Supportive medications such as paracetamol or NSAIDs are also prescribed to relieve symptoms of fever, body aches, cough etc. Proper intake of fluids, healthy diet, rest, and nasal breathing are also recommended to an individual suffering from COVID.
What are the complications associated with coronavirus manifestation?
The severity of COVID-19 varies from one individual to other. The disease may be asymptomatic (without any symptoms) or may take a mild course with few symptoms, resembling other common upper respiratory diseases such as the common cold. Depending upon the physiological state and medical condition of an individual, the COVID infection may lead to several as well as severe complications.
COVID complications may include pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), multi-organ failure, septic shock, and even death.
Cardiovascular complications associated with COVID manifestation include heart failure, arrhythmias, heart inflammation, and thrombosis.
Approximately 20–30% of COVID infected persons suffer from severe health issues such as elevated liver enzymes and reflecting liver injury.
Neurologic manifestations induced by coronavirus infection are seizure, stroke, encephalitis, and loss of motor functions.
Following the infection, children are also affected and may develop paediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which can be fatal.
Pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to develop respiratory and obstetric complications leading to miscarriage, premature delivery and intrauterine growth restriction.
As a matter of fact, billions of people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as vaccination is only way to combat coronavirus and help end this pandemic. Gradual but firm steps are being undertaken to ensure the complete eradication of this pandemic and its effects. In order to prevent the emergence of new variants and to break this chain of infection, complete immunization of the population worldwide is mandatory.
A motivated student of Medicine & Surgery (MBBS) at R. G. Kar Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata, having a knack for reading and composing medical literature. When he's not writing content for MEDtalks, Swapnil is usually looking up the latest trends and innovations in Medicine.