July 13, 2024

Higher Covid vaccination rates could help protect children from asthma attacks, according to research.

While previous studies show that vaccination helps prevent Covid 19 disease, the authors believe this is the first study to determine whether Covid inoculation is associated with reductions in children’s asthma symptoms, by preventing viral disease in children with asthma.

US researchers examined the prevalence of parent-reported asthma symptoms in more than 150,000 children in the National Survey of Child Health between 2018-19 and 2020-21, broken down by US state.

The data was then compared with the percentage of people aged five and over who were vaccinated in 2020-21, as well as age-adjusted Covid death rates and any face mask requirements in closed spaces.

Researchers then calculated any changes in reported prevalence of asthma symptoms in children and found that Covid inoculation may help protect asthmatic children from Covid infection and also protect against other coronaviruses such as the common cold.

With every 10 percentage point increase in Covid vaccination coverage in US states, there was a 0.36 percentage point reduction in the rates of asthma symptoms in children as reported by their parents, according to the study, published in Jama Network Open.

Dr Andy Whittamore, the clinical head at Asthma + Lung UK, said: “Two million children in the UK live with asthma. Infections such as Covid-19 and influenza can cause irritation and inflammation in the airways of people with asthma. This can lead to an increase in mucus and narrowing of the airways, which in turn can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and coughing and potentially trigger an asthma attack.

“It is therefore important that children with asthma get any vaccinations they are eligible for, such as flu, to keep them safe. It is also essential to make sure your child takes their preventative inhaler daily and always has their reliever inhaler with them.”

Every child with asthma should have an annual asthma review with a health professional and an asthma action plan to explain what medicines they should take each day to reduce their risk of an asthma attack and what to do if their symptoms get worse, he added.

Dr. Matthew Davis, the chief scientific officer at Nemours Children’s Health and lead author of the study, said: “We found that states with higher population-level vaccination rates against Covid-19 were more likely to have greater declines in the proportion of parents reporting that their children had asthma symptoms, compared to before the pandemic.”

In contrast, the study also found that decreases in parent-reported child asthma symptoms at the state level were not associated with levels of Covid infections in the state and whether the state had face mask requirements in 2021.

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Asthma flares are often triggered when a person with a history of the condition develops a viral respiratory infection. Studies of flu vaccination over the past 50 years suggest that asthmatics who have been vaccinated against flu are less likely have asthma attacks requiring hospitalization.

Higher Covid vaccination rates could be linked to lower rates of children’s asthma symptoms in two main ways, the study suggested. First, higher vaccination coverage in the general population may indicate that children with asthma are more likely to be vaccinated against Covid than children with asthma in other states with lower Covid vaccination coverage. Second, higher vaccination rates may make it less likely that viruses will spread from person to person in the community, thereby reducing the risk to asthmatic children.

However, in response to the findings, Seif Shaheen, a professor of respiratory epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London, said the results should be treated with “extreme caution” as there are likely to be multiple factors associated with asthma in children and the likelihood of being vaccinated could confound the findings, but these studies were “useful for generating hypotheses to be tested in more rigorous observational studies of individuals”.

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