'Covid 'may contribute to overall immunity' for children, says Niac chair

'Covid 'may contribute to overall immunity' for children, says Niac chair

Professor Karina Butler, Chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, said that a mild infection of Covid in children "may contribute to their overall immunity".  But that doesn't mean children should be exposed to the disease. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

For the majority of children, Covid is a mild 'infection' and "may contribute to their overall immunity" but that doesn't mean children should be exposed to the disease, the Oireachtas Health Committee has heard.

Dr Karina Butler, chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Council, said in terms of concerns over unvaccinated children attending schools, Covid “is different from other infections in that for the majority of them it is a mild infection, and that may contribute to their overall immunity ongoing”.

Asked to clarify that statement, Dr Butler said she “wouldn’t wish to be misinterpreted. It is not a good thing for children to get this infection,” she said.

“There is the potential for serious illness, and for post-Covid inflammatory syndrome. Covid is not something that you want to expose your children to.” 

The meeting heard that testing in children aged between 5 and 12 has trebled in recent weeks, with a doubling in positive cases as a result. Professor Nolan said however that testing is declining in “almost all other age groups”.

There have been 40 new outbreaks in schools since last Saturday, presenting 191 new cases, the meeting heard.

Regarding Long Covid, Dr Butler said that is a phenomenon that appears to be “far less prevalent in children”.

 Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health said he is "broadly optimistic" that Ireland will remove the last of the restrictions by October 22. 	Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
 Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health said he is "broadly optimistic" that Ireland will remove the last of the restrictions by October 22. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Optimism

The chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has said he is “broadly optimistic” that Ireland will be able to remove the last of its Covid-19 restrictions on October 22.

Asked before the committee this morning to clarify his statement that further restrictions cannot be ruled out, Dr Holohan said: “Given our experience of the past 18 months how could we rule anything out?” 

The meeting heard that Ireland is tracking ahead of the optimistic scenario set out by NPHET’s modelling team ahead of the surge in the Delta variant earlier in the summer.

“We don’t see anything emerging on the international scene in terms of a concern over a new variant,”

 Dr Holohan said but added that the removal of restrictions in October remains dependent on Ireland matching the five requirements that NPHET set out for it.

One of those requirements is for 90% of the population aged over 16 to be fully vaccinated.

Dr Holohan said at present that figure is above 88%. “We need to keep pushing on as much as we possibly can.” 

Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said Ireland is past the peak of infection in terms of the Delta variant. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said Ireland is past the peak of infection in terms of the Delta variant. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Professor Philip Nolan, the head of NPHET’s modelling group, said that Ireland is “past the peak of infection” in terms of the Delta variant, and that “cases should decline from here on”, but added that certain assumptions are built into that prediction, including that schoolchildren are both less likely to get the disease and to then pass it on.

He said there appear to be two broad strains of Long Covid — one which sees a body affected by issues such as kidney problems, the other with more “vague” symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog.

He said the best research at present indicates an average recovery period from the illness of between 8 and 12 weeks.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said that, ahead of flu season, the key things to be emphasised by NPHET will be hand hygiene and the need to “remove ourselves from any place of activity if we feel even the slightest onset of a cold or flu”.

He said the latter is especially problematic given the human brain’s “natural low index for self suspicion”. A national awareness campaign highlighting such preventative measures will follow in the coming months, Dr Glynn said.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Let Me Tell You

Let Me Tell You is a new bespoke podcast series from 

Logo IE

Hosts Daniel McConnell and Paul Hosford take a look back at some of the most dramatic moments in recent Irish political history from the unique perspective of one of the key players involved.

Bespoke political podcast series from

Logo IE