You will have heard a lot in the news about vaccines, and some of you might know some people who have received a vaccine against Covid-19.
The vaccines being administered here are not for children, but last week trials began in the UK and United States to find out how children respond to the vaccines.
Vaccines work by training the immune system to recognise and combat either viruses or bacteria.
Some vaccines against Covid-19, like the Oxford/AstraZeneca and the Johnson and Johnson vaccines, introduce your cells to a part of a disease cell. Your cells then figure out how to destroy it, and that immune response is triggered when we meet that same disease in the real world.
Other vaccines, like the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, are different. They are a new type of vaccine that instead sends a message that tells our own body cells to make the secret key to destroy the coronavirus.
Most of the vaccines require two injections, with a couple weeks break between doses.
However, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is a single jab and has been described as a ‘game changer’ in getting vaccines into the population quickly, but it has not yet been approved here.
Most of your bodies are very familiar with vaccines.
Dr Sarah Doyle is an Assistant Professor of Immunology at Trinity College, Dublin, where she specialises in Paediatric Immunology.
She said “the vast majority of you have been vaccinated numerous times as a baby. A lot of babies get a vaccine in their first few days of life with the BCG vaccine.”
You might be thinking, what about children and vaccines against Covid-19?
Well, none of the vaccines have been approved for use in children yet.
Last week trials began on children in the UK with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and in the US with Pfizer/BionTech and Moderna vaccines.
Moderna actually have approval for their vaccines for young people from 16 years old as they included children of that age in their primary trial.
One of the teenagers taking part in the Oxford trial said when she saw it was going on, she wanted to do her bit to help, another said they were thrilled to be taking part in something that is going to be “history making”.
Hannah Roberts, Senior Research Nurse, Oxford Vaccine Group said the trial so far has been going well in getting participants in an out for their jabs.
“This trial will be running for six to 17-year-old but to start off the first cohort, we’re taking the 12 to 17 year-old so the slightly older participants.”
“Then there will be pause to look at the data and then we’ll carry on to the 6-12 year-olds,” she said.
Results from the trials are expected by the summertime.
Dr Doyle says most children are relatively unaffected by Covid-19. Globally around three million children have contracted the virus but they are not experiencing symptoms the way older people have been.
When asked if there was any science to support the idea that children have ‘superhuman’ strength against the virus, she said “it’s such a fascinating question that all the scientists are asking, what is it about their immune systems that is so strong?”
“It’s actually really interesting, with bacterial infection children are usually worse off but there is anecdotal evidence that actually children have quite a good anti-viral immune response, and I’d say this is kicking in to some extent for Covid-19.”
“I’d love some of that childhood superhuman power.”
Despite this, children still need a vaccine so as a people we can achieve herd immunity, which gives the virus nowhere to go, and life can return to normal.