Children with bad asthma should be given a Covid jab because they’re six times more likely to be hospitalised, scientists say.
A study of 750,000 school children in Scotland found 548 per 100,000 youngsters with poorly controlled asthma were hospitalised with the virus, compared to just 55 per 100,000 children without the condition.
After adjusting the figures to take into account other factors that increased Covid risk, the researchers said they were six times more likely to be hospitalised.
The team at the University of Edinburgh said it suggests the jabs should be expanded to more than 100,000 children aged five and above with bad asthma.
Currently, vaccines are not approved for any child below the age of 12, even if they have bad asthma.
The researchers were asked to look at the risk for asthmatics by No10’s vaccine advisors. The results strongly suggest the move will be approved.
But they noted their study, published in journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, shows the overall risk from the coronavirus for children with severe asthma was low, with one in 380 included in the study being hospitalised.
Asthma is one of the most common long-term childhood conditions, affecting 1.1million children in the UK and 6.8million in the US.
The condition can be triggered or made worse by respiratory viruses, such as Covid.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh examined Covid data for 750,000 five to 17-year-olds in Scotland during the first 15 months of the pandemic. They found those with bad asthma were six times more likely to be hospitalised after catching the virus. They found 548 Covid hospitalisations occurred per 100,000 children with poorly controlled asthma — classed as those who have been hospitalised with their lung problem in the last two years. This is compared to just 55 Covid hospitalisations per 100,000 children without asthma, and 94 admissions per 100,000 children with well-controlled asthma. Children also faced a higher risk of being admitted to hospital with Covid if they had taken steroids for asthma once in the last two years (94 per 100,000) or twice in the previous 24 months (231 per 100,000). Their risk was three times higher than those without asthma
The researchers used a national database to examine Covid hospitalisations among five to 17-year-olds in Scotland between March 2020 and July 2021.
The study was conducted in response to a request from the the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to investigate the risk of Covid hospital admissions among children with uncontrolled asthma.
WHAT IS ASTHMA?
Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties.
It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also develop for the first time in adults.
There’s currently no cure, but there are simple treatments that can help keep the symptoms under control so it does not have a big impact on your life.
Its main symptoms are wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing.
Asthma is caused by swelling of the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.
This makes the tubes highly sensitive, so they temporarily narrow.
It can be triggered by allergies, smoke, pollution, cold air, exercise and infections, such as cold and flu.
Asthma is usually treated with an inhaler.
It can usually be kept under control, but if treatment is not followed and symptoms are ignored, it can cause problems including:
- Feeling tired all the time
- Underperformance or absence from work or school
- Stress, anxiety or depression
- Disruption of your work and leisure because of unplanned visits to a GP or hospital
- Lung infections, such as pneumonia
- Delays in growth or puberty in children
- Severe asthma attacks, which can be life threatening
Nearly 10 per cent of all Covid cases in the UK have been recorded among school-aged children.
The researchers said uncertainties about the risks and benefits of vaccinating children, as well as concerns about limited vaccine supply, mean it is important to identify what groups could benefit from getting vaccinated.
Identifying and vaccinating these at-risk groups could reduce school absences and limit the spread of the virus, they said.
In total, 752,867 children were included in the analysis and 63,463 (8.4 per cent) had asthma.
Some 4,339 of those with asthma tested positive during the 15-month period (6.8 per cent).
And 67 cases among asthmatic children led to hospitalisation (1.5 per cent).
For comparison, 40,231 children without asthma tested positive for Covid (5.8 per cent).
And 382 of the non-asthmatic children were hospitalised (0.9 per cent).
The researchers said nine of the asthmatic children were admitted to intensive care or died from the virus.
The figures equate to 548 Covid hospitalisations per 100,000 children with poorly controlled asthma — classed as those who have been hospitalised with their lung problem in the last two years.
This is compared to just 55 Covid hospitalisations per 100,000 children without asthma, and 94 admissions per 100,000 children with well-controlled asthma.
Children also faced a higher risk of being admitted to hospital with Covid if they had taken steroids for asthma once in the last two years (94 per 100,000) or twice in the previous 24 months (231 per 100,000). Their risk was three times higher than those without asthma.
The researchers said their findings mean more than 9,000 five to 17-year-olds with poorly controlled asthma in Scotland during the study period could have benefitted from getting a Covid vaccine.
And as many as 109,488 children across the UK could have benefitted, they said.
As it stands, children aged 12 to 17 can get two doses of Covid vaccines, but younger groups are not yet offered the jabs.
Under-18s were initially offered just one dose of the injection over fears about a heart inflammation side effect called myocarditis.
Data from the JCVI shows up to one in 56,000 12 to 15-year-olds will get myocarditis after their first Covid jab.
But the rate jumps to as many as one in 23,000 cases after second doses.Professor
Aziz Sheikh, director of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute and lead author, said: ‘Understanding which children with asthma are at increased risk of serious Covid outcomes is critical to ongoing policy deliberations on vaccine prioritisation.
‘Our analysis provides the first national evidence of the risk of Covid hospitalisations among school-aged children with markers of poorly controlled asthma.’
He added: ‘The key takeaway from this study is that keeping children’s asthma under control is critical as this greatly reduces the risk of Covid hospitalisation.
‘Vaccinating those with poorly controlled asthma offers an additional important layer of protection from serious Covid outcomes.’
Dr Ting Shi, an expert in public health science at the university, said: ‘Although Covid tends to affect children less severely than adults, our findings underscore the importance of carefully monitoring these children if they become infected with Covid and ensuring that children take their preventive inhalers regularly, go for asthma reviews, and have an up-to-date asthma treatment action plan.’
She added: ‘More research is needed to investigate the underlying mechanisms that predispose children to these increased risks of Covid hospitalisation.’
Source: Daily Mail UK