Despite the recent decision to vaccinate 12-year-olds in the U.K., one researcher has advised that children may develop "better" immunity from getting the coronavirus naturally instead of getting one dose of any vaccine.
According to Professor David Livermore, a microbiologist at the University of East Anglia, it's useless to inoculate young children since they are at very low risk of getting seriously ill with coronavirus. He explained that 12-year-olds will probably develop more protection from catching the virus, just like how kids build up immunity against other seasonal illnesses.
Whether or not you develop immunity to a disease usually depends on your antibodies or the proteins your body produces to fight infection. Antibodies are one of the body’s most well-known defenses and they work by coating invading cells.
Ideally, antibodies should prevent invading cells from hijacking your cells and replicating them. But once you clear an infection, your antibody levels often wane.
Fortunately, some antibodies stick around and are ready to ramp up production again if you get the same disease again. This explains how an antibody test can tell you if you were infected in the past and it's often what keeps you from getting sick again.
Your body doesn't forget. If you're reinfected with a disease, it's not because you lost immunity. Reinfection usually occurs if the pathogen mutated and your immune system can't recognize it, or because your body tends to mount a much lower immune response.
For example, the flu is a virus that can change its genes easily. Once your immune system gets rid of one version of the virus, another emerges that your immune system doesn't recognize.
Coronavirus vaccines work by teaching your immune system to recognize the virus and make it strong enough to fight it off if you ever get infected.
However, some studies have found that vaccine-triggered immunity may diminish within six months. Research has also suggested that those who have recovered from the disease may be protected for at least one year.
According to an Israeli study, people who are vaccinated are 13 times more likely to catch coronavirus than those who have recovered from a previous infection.
Professor Chris Whitty and the other chief medical officers in the UK said that children aged 12 to 15 should be offered a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine. They added that kids considered "competent" enough can overrule their parents' wishes to get vaccinated, if they don't want to be inoculated.
In the U.K., both health experts and parents expressed their concerns over the decision as it could result in the bullying of unvaccinated children and discord among families.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi explained that all families must be supported whatever they decide to do and that "no one should be stigmatized" for choosing not to get vaccinated, a far cry from the sentiments of people who believe vaccines are the key to curing coronavirus in the U.S.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) also recently recommended that citizens older than 50 need to get a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine six months after getting their second shot.
Scientists are also divided over whether children and teens aged 12 to 15 need to get vaccinated. Some Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) members previously supported the move since it is believed that vaccination can help prevent a surge in infections later this winter.
SAGE "provides scientific and technical advice to support government decision-makers during emergencies," such as the coronavirus pandemic.
However, others say that it is "ethically dubious" to vaccinate the age group, especially since millions of people in poorer countries are still waiting for vaccines.
Livermore said that vaccinating children doesn't protect them from severe infection and that it's mostly being done to keep schools open. He added that the decision to close schools was "based on a false premise" and that schools in the U.K. shouldn't have been closed in the first place.
Livermore, who is also a member of the anti-lockdown Health Advisory and Recovery Team (HART) also talked about Sweden, which kept its schools open during the first wave last winter even if there was no vaccine available at the time.
Official data revealed that coronavirus hospitalizations in the U.K. started increasing back in August, or around six months after a inoculation program had finished vaccinating older adults in the country.
Additionally, admissions started to decline again at least two weeks after the boosters were first rolled out, or roughly how long it takes for a vaccine to spark immunity.
The fall in immunity triggered the decision to roll out booster vaccines in Britain, which was announced by the Government's vaccine advisers. (Related: Coronavirus booster shots: Boosting immunity or profits?)
A study in America published in April showed that most of the people who were infected with coronavirus didn't get infected up to one year later.
Out of 9,000 patients who recovered from the virus after being hospitalized, only 63 patients (0.7 per cent) tested positive for it up to a year since.
In a previous interview, Livermore said that "it is clear the vaccine-mediated protection wanes significantly within four to six months. Even government advertising acknowledges this." At the same time, he explained that reinfection was rare among people who got infected in the first wave more than one year ago.
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