Immunity debt is the hypothesis that your immune system becomes less able to fight off pathogens when you go for too long without being exposed to pathogens. The idea is that during the pandemic, isolation, distancing, and masking protected us too much, so this year, we are seeing record numbers of respiratory viral diseases.
Regardless of human contact, we are still encountering numerous antigens daily, so our immune systems are not sitting idle. Furthermore, people can go a season or two without catching a cold, and when they do, it is often not more severe.
However, COVID infections themselves leave people more vulnerable to these diseases. We know that COVID infection can suppress the immune system for months post-infection, which would lead to worse outcomes with subsequent illnesses. The CDC estimates that 3 in 4 children have had COVID, leaving a large percentage of children potentially vulnerable to other diseases.
So no, Virginia. You don’t have to be sick to prevent getting sicker.
mRNA flu vaccines
It’s true that mRNA flu vaccines are in the works! And that’s exciting because the old egg-based technology is less effective than we would like it to be. New technology is needed.
Since we have available flu vaccines, we do not have an emergency to quickly bring a vaccine to the public. So any flu vaccine is going to have to undergo the long slog of clinical testing and licensure. No mRNA vaccine has been licensed for influenza, but listen to our latest podcast episode to learn more about mRNA vaccines on the horizon!
Low-risk or cherry-picked?
Our very own Noah Louis-Ferdinand gave a public comment before the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, but since no good deed goes unpunished, an anti-vaccine publication quoted him as proof that vaccines are unnecessary for children since they are at “low risk” from COVID complications.
What did Noah really say? He shared the story of a family who lost their child to COVID in order to emphasize that even though it is less likely for children to suffer the worst complications from COVID, it is still far more common than one would hope. And, of course, COVID vaccination helps prevent these worst outcomes.
How low is low risk, anyhow?
- MIS-C could affect 1 out of every 3,000 children who have been infected with COVID
- COVID has caused over 1,500 deaths in U.S> children in the last 2.5 years, the majority of which happened in the last 1.5 years
- By comparison, measles killed 500 U.S. children per year before vaccines
- A third of children hospitalized had no underlying conditions
- About 25% of children infected suffer from Long-COVID
- While children may have less risk than adults, COVID is still a really, really terrible disease. Vaccines help mitigate the worst complications.