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Can COVID-19 vaccination help fight PIMS-TS?

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In an interview, Dr Louis Grandjean, Infectious Diseases Consultant at GOSH, explains what PIMS-TS is and whether COVID-19 vaccination can help in controlling the disease in children.

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 12 and 15, which is also now available to book in the UAE. According to Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE, its study has shown that the vaccine is 100 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 among kids in this age group.

According to the UK’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, most children don’t become seriously unwell with COVID-19. Between 1 and 5 children in 100,000 need admission to hospital for COVID-19 and even fewer of these require admission to an intensive care unit.

However, doctors have seen a small number of children and teenagers who develop a rare inflammatory condition that appears to be linked to the virus. Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (PIMS-TS) reportedly occurs in less than 0.5 per cent of children who have or who have had COVID-19. It is similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome. These children suffer from fever and inflammation, and some have rashes or abdominal pain.

In an interview with Omnia Health Insights, Dr Louis Grandjean, Infectious Diseases Consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), explains what PIMS-TS is, what are its symptoms and sheds light on the importance of vaccination in controlling the disease. Excerpts:

How is PIMS-TS associated with SARS-CoV-2? What are its symptoms? Can vaccination help control the disease?

PIMS-TS is a multisystem inflammatory disease temporally associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection. This condition is also called MIS-C or PIMS. It is a novel condition that was first reported in April 2020.

Children with PIMS-TS often present with fevers, hypotension, a rash, and a low lymphocyte count. The fevers usually last for more than three days, and there may be other associated symptoms including headache, stomachache, neck pain, swollen hands or feet and weakness or fatigue.

As well as protecting against severe disease, a vaccination can potentially prevent people from being infected with COVID-19 and, therefore, block the transmission of the disease. This would then decrease the numbers of PIMS-TS as it is temporally associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Could you share your experiences of treating patients with PIMS-TS at GOSH?

It’s been great to see the recovery of our patients. Sometimes it takes a while, but it’s been so encouraging to see so many have returned to full health.

This is the result of a massive group effort across the hospital. It is worth mentioning the incredible effort and hours of dedication from the nursing staff in responding to this new situation. Additionally, the physiotherapists have done great rehabilitation work to help children move off the ICU and wards, and the ICU specialists have also been great at rapidly responding to the influx of patients on the PICU.

What are the most significant challenges facing paediatric care in 2021?

I think in the short term the most significant challenge we’re facing is the possibility of a potential third and fourth wave of COVID. This is the most concerning thing at the moment given the strain on the workforce and disruption to normal paediatric care that are associated with this.

Is technology having an impact on paediatric care? How do you see it evolving in the future?

Technology has always impacted medicine and continues to do so. It is particularly relevant at a hospital such as Great Ormond Street Hospital, as we have the ability to employ the latest technologies. Technology continues to improve the way we deliver medical care.

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Dr Grandjean is a paediatric consultant in paediatric infectious diseases at GOSH and a Clinical Associate Professor and Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Infectious Diseases at University College London. He is also a Welcome Trust Post-Doctoral Fellow at Imperial College London, where he is leading a research.

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