A seasoned Pediatric Infectious Disease expert reveals there’s no compelling evidence to suggest that parents in British Columbia, prepping to send their children back to school following the emergence of a novel COVID-19 variant, need to revamp their mitigation strategies. Dr. David Goldfarb from the BC Children’s Hospital sheds light on the situation, citing evidence from the Southern Hemisphere that predicts a predominance of Influenza B—known to gravely affect children—in the coming year.
Goldfarb emphasizes that this strain is effectively addressed by the yearly influenza vaccine. He recommends people avail themselves and their children of the forthcoming flu vaccine, in addition to the COVID-19 vaccine. Recalling the “unprecedented” strain on the healthcare system from the last year’s onslaught of childhood respiratory illnesses, including influenza and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), he insists on the importance of immunization.
While Dr. Goldfarb anticipates a less severe respiratory disease season this year, he stresses the continued significance of vaccinations. The BC Centre for Disease Control recently identified Canada’s first case of new COVID-19 variant BA.2.86. Assuringly, Dr. Goldfarb states there’s no initial proof of this variant causing heightened severity of illness.
The Omicron variant has been detected globally. Goldfarb assures that the medical community rapidly assimilates knowledge regarding a newly identified variant, allowing them to adjust their guidelines appropriately. Based on current knowledge, he suggests there’s not enough evidence to urge parents to make drastic alterations pertaining to this unique variant.
Despite the lack of firm details about the eligibility criteria, Goldfarb predicts a new COVID-19 vaccine will be available soon. Influenza and RSV are typically the top culprits of diseases in children during the respiratory season. However, influenza was virtually absent until last season amidst the ongoing pandemic, before making a striking reappearance.
A report released recently notes an enormous increase in RSV cases in B.C., from a mere 11 cases recorded between September 2020 and August 2021, to 9,529 in 2021-22, and 8,215 the following year.
Canadian doctors routinely take cues from the Southern Hemisphere’s respiratory illness trends, implying that it provides crucial insights into potential patterns locally. Despite not being a foolproof method, it does provide some insight into what to expect, and thankfully, no massive surge has been observed in those regions, for either RSV or influenza in the recently concluded season.