A shortage of over-the-counter painkillers for children is perhaps just the most obvious sign that the latest wave of COVID-19 is spreading rapidly among the youngest — and least vaccinated — segment of the population, according to some experts.
“Omicron has more impact on children than (previous strains),” said Dr. Anna Banerji, pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Temerty College of Medicine and Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
Like almost everyone else, children are no longer required to mask up or distance themselves – two practices that reduce the risk of catching COVID. Opportunities for this contact abound with the return of summer camps and festivals. As a group, children under 11 are not yet fully immunized, which increases the risk of serious illness after infection.
All of this, plus the fact that the highly transmissible variant of Omicron infects children more easily than previous strains, should warrant extra caution on the part of parents, Banerji said.
“We should be a little more worried. Children and young people should be vaccinated,” Banerji said. “We rejected COVID for young people at first, part of the reason was that fewer of them were infected at the time.”
Banerji said children are more likely to be infected now than in the past – and infection carries risks.
Although COVID is mostly mild in children, it can cause them to develop a rare but serious condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, which is characterized by fever and pain, and can cause inflammation of several organs. It is also believed that children can develop long COVID.
Children under five only became eligible for vaccination last month, but if vaccination rates for older children are any indicator, it could be a while before most of them are done. vaccinate. Only 40% of Ontarians aged 5 to 11 have received two doses, although they have been eligible since November.
The reason many observers have to rely on clues like bare pharmacy shelves to gauge the presence of COVID is the lack of provincially recorded data.
Ontario’s COVID testing infrastructure was unable to keep up with demand after the highly transmissible wave of Omicron hit last winter. The province then drastically reduced access to high-precision lab testing, with the result that around 60,000 weekly tests are currently being performed, down from more than 400,000 per week at the December peak.
Instead, experts are looking for COVID in our wastewater and relying on people self-reporting rapid test results.
That’s why Banerji rejects data on COVID cases from Public Health Ontario. It currently indicates that children aged 5 to 11 have the lowest infection rate of all age groups.
“They don’t really measure it,” she said. “People are infected, but we don’t know to what degree.”
Jen Belcher, vice-president of strategic initiatives and member relations for the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA), said the resurgence of viral infections, including COVID, has likely led to increased demand for over-the-counter medications like Tylenol and Advil.
“Now that we’ve let go of public health precautions that helped limit the spread, we’ve seen a return of the common cold, the flu,” Belcher said. “We haven’t been in contact with people for a while, so our natural immunity has gone down.”
According to the OPA, children’s Tylenol has been in short supply in Canada for months, in part because pharmaceutical companies are struggling with supply chain issues, such as the lack of availability of certain drug components, as well as labor shortages caused by epidemics and quits in warehouses. .
In a statement to Simcoe.com last month, Johnson & Johnson, maker of children’s Tylenol, said it was working to meet increased demand.
“We continue to face increased consumer demand for certain products and markets. We take all possible measures to ensure product availability.
The company did not respond to a request for an update from the Star this week.
Belcher said the lack of children’s Tylenol is affecting parents across the country.
“Uncontrolled fever, especially in young children, can be medically dangerous,” she said.
“And the shortage can lead to situations where parents who are unaware of the danger may turn to adult products and use them inappropriately for a child.”
Belcher warned any parent considering this to consult with their healthcare provider first.
“It’s important to get quality information from someone who knows your child, rather than looking it up online and hoping or believing it applies to your situation.”
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