Children with mild symptoms have strong antibody response to Covid-19, US study shows

Vaccinating under-12s may give them even stronger protection, if shots are approved by regulators for this age group, findings reveal

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Children with mild symptoms of Covid-19 have a strong antibody response up to four months after recovery, a US study has found.

The response to the virus in 69 children and adolescents was tested, with results considered either comparable or superior to the reaction in adults.

Only those with asymptomatic or mild symptomatic responses to infection were evaluated.

Researchers at Duke University found no difference in the antibody response that remained detectable four months after their recovery.

Experts welcomed the results, as those under the age of 12 cannot yet be vaccinated.

Trials are continuing - including in the UAE - to assess the safety of giving shots to children in this age group.

But the study potentially means vaccinating the under-12s may give them even stronger protection.

These findings are encouraging, especially because we cannot yet vaccinate children under the age of 12 against the virus
Jillian Hurst

Comparisons were also made between the children’s immune responses and those of adults with the virus.

All children, regardless of age, had equivalent or slightly higher levels of antibodies than adults at two months and four months after acute infection.

In the US, emergency authorisation by the Food and Drug Administration of Covid-19 vaccines for children under 12 is unlikely to be pushed through before the end of 2021.

Vaccines are only currently approved for children aged over 12, with trials launched in March by both Moderna and PfizerBioNTech for vaccines in younger groups. Results are expected within weeks.

The US Centres for Disease Control recommends that every person aged 12 years and older should obtain a vaccine to help protect against Covid-19.

Meanwhile, UAE trials are also continuing for the Sinopharm vaccine among children between the ages of 3 and 17.

The study approved by the Department of Health - Abu Dhabi is monitoring the immune response in 900 vaccinated youngsters of different nationalities, in preparation of a major vaccination drive soon, authorities said.

Results from the US study suggest vaccinating young children against Covid-19 could elicit a similar or greater degree of protection than that of adults.

Genevieve Fouda, an associate professor in paediatrics and microbiology at Duke University, said the study gave insights into children’s viral responses.

“Most studies of the immune responses of children to SARS-CoV-2 have focused on patients hospitalised for severe Covid-19 or multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children [MIS-C], or have assessed immunity only during acute infection,” she said.

“Our study provides important information that SARS-CoV-2-specific immune responses, regardless of disease severity, may decline over time more slowly in children and adolescents.”

The US study measured the immune response to Covid-19 in 69 children, aged from 2 months old to 21 years, with an average age of 11.5. Of those tested, 51 per cent were female.

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Updated: July 19, 2021, 9:33 AM