Paediatrician Dr David Bratt is in favour of children receiving the Covid-19 vaccine because of the “suffering” they are experiencing during the pandemic.
He said there was a “desperate” need for children to return to face-to-face classes in school.
All places of learning were closed March 13, 2020, for one week, after the first case of Covid was detected March 12. Schools were to reopen April 20, after the Easter break but with community spread this did not happen and schools shifted to online classes.
The Education Ministry and Health Ministry embarked on mass vaccination of children 12–18 years on August 18 in Trinidad, and the Tobago House of Assembly from August 19 in Tobago ahead of September’s physical reopening of schools.
For the school population to feel safe, teachers and students must be vaccinated. Dr Bratt said, “the potential risks of in-person learning pale in comparison to the emotional and educational benefits of going back to face to face.”
He disclosed that every day in his “small, limited, private practice”, he has seen children with sleep and feeding problems. Children who had put on “enormous amounts of weight which they are not going to be able to get rid of, and this constitutes obesity in childhood, which is a problem on which they can be predisposed when they get Covid”. Children are also having tics, headaches, and abdominal pain.
Dr Bratt, former senior lecturer, Child Health, at The University of the West Indies was one of the speakers at a webinar Friday, August 20, ‘The Covid-19 Vaccine and your Child’ hosted by Presentation College, San Fernando, and the Catholic Education Board of Management in collaboration with the Member of Parliament for San Fernando West, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi. The event was streamed on the College’s YouTube channel.
Discussing the question: ‘Should children be vaccinated against Covid-19?’ Dr Bratt stated two-three weeks ago, he was unsure about vaccination of children. “The problem with injecting a foreign substance into the body of a child is, you have to make sure that we are not going to do worse than the disease you are trying to prevent.” At the time, “with a few exceptions”, Covid-19 was not seen as a serious disease in children.
Two things influenced Dr Bratt to change his mind— the arrival of more vaccines enabling more people including children to be vaccinated, and the Delta variant.
“Because it [Delta] is more contagious, there are more cases, therefore more serious cases and it’s attacking all the younger age groups.” He referred to the US where the Delta accounts for more than 90 per cent of Covid-19 cases. “Children in the US now make up one in five cases of Covid-19, 20 per cent.” The percentage of children with Covid had grown from the week ending August 5 when it was, 14.3 per cent. In 2020, less than two per cent of children had contracted the original Covid strain.
Up to mid-July the US immunised nine million children with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine; side effects were reported in 9,000 children, 8,000 of these were mild symptoms, 1,000 were considered serious. “The management of this disease now and in the future is about managing risk,” Dr Bratt said. —LPG