Johannesburg - Children have largely not been the face of the novel coronavirus and are far less likely to die or suffer from severe Covid-19 infections but it is still vital for them to get vaccinated.
This was the view of molecular biologist Daniel Kapelus during a webinar this week hosted by Sandton’s Redhill school.
As part of their The Covid Vaccine series, the online session which was hosted by the facility’s executive head Joseph Gerassi, unpacked all things related to the coronavirus jab.
Kapelus, who is a Redhill alumni, stressed that death was not the only thing parents have to fear when it comes to the virus and their children.
“Death in a child from the virus is unlikely, but long Covid is likely as is infecting a family member and those are the things we need to prevent.”
During the webinar, the scientist who was also part of the Wits AstraZeneca vaccine trial at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital earlier this year, stressed that the vaccine does not prevent Covid-19 infections from occurring in youngsters, but prevents severe infection.
Kapelus said that children who are vaccinated are also less likely to transmit the virus to others, particularly adults who are more susceptible to severe infection.
“Kids are significant contributors to the spread of Covid ... and even if your child is super fit and healthy, you, your partner, your parents or other extended family members might be elderly and have comorbidities and they can suffer from a severe infection.
The scientist also warned that while in most cases kids suffer from mild to moderate coronavirus infections, the likelihood of them suffering from long Covid is high and that this affects more than just a youngster’s health.
“We are seeing that long Covid is quite common in children which can be debilitating for months and one of the big worries for kids who suffer from this is that it's not just physical but it also affects their social and mental well-being.”
Kapelus said that he was cognisant of parent’s concerns about the speed in which the vaccine was developed but as a scientist himself, he can vouch that all scientific protocols were followed adequately.
“The reality is that we cannot treat all vaccines the same and we have to factor in the fact that the Covid vaccine was developed during a pandemic so there was a huge amount of support and resources behind it.”
He explained that the vaccine’s trial stages were run on a global scale, were backed by a significant number of scientists and governments and that some of the processes were run concurrently in order for it to be rolled out as soon as possible.
“We also have previous experience with other coronaviruses, technological advancements and the jab was developed by pretty much every vaccine scientist in the world working on them.”
He also sought to relay fears over the ingredients contained in the various vaccines.
“The vaccines contain ingredients that are either naturally occurring and the synthetic ones are all found in food substances that we eat.”
“If you are working on the position of natural is good and synthetic is bad then you should cut off a huge amount of things from your diet because I have never seen a smoked chicken vienna growing on a tree.”
Kapelus also stressed that the vaccines are incapable of interacting with a human’s DNA and that none of the vaccines have an entire coronavirus.
“None of them can make a coronavirus and none of them produce the proteins of a coronavirus that makes you sick.”
The esteemed scientist also warned parents against fake news and urged them to source their information relating to Covid-19 responsibility.
He said these sources of information can be found through reputable health, media and governmental organisations.
He warned against anecdotal evidence which he believes is mostly based on unscientific information, emotion and over exaggeration through a “broken telephone” communication system.
“There are about 7.13 billion vaccine doses which have been administered and about 3.16 billion people who are fully vaccinated around the world so if the vaccine was making people drop dead, the world’s population would have halved and we would have noticed that happening.”
Kapelus also urged for social responsibility even with the vaccine being available.
“Even if you are vaccinated, wear a mask in public, social distance and avoid large gatherings because these are the things that prevent the virus from spreading at all.”