Since very early in the pandemic, the general understanding has been that Covid-19 is mainly a problem for the elderly. In the UK, for example, the average age of those who died of Covid-19 to October 2020 was 80 years old. The numbers for Australia are similar.
But problematic policies have been formulated from these facts. The latest is the federal government’s four-phase plan, which contemplates reopening Australia and permitting SARS-CoV-2 to circulate before children and adolescents have been vaccinated.
The idea that young people do not catch the virus is a myth. In fact, in Australia there have been more positive cases in people aged 10-19 than among those aged 70-79, or those aged 80-89.
Young people are less likely to die from the virus. Yet those who are badly affected may still suffer life-changing consequences.
A new report from Sweden, where the virus was infamously allowed to circulate in 2020, has shed light on young people’s suffering. In the words of Sweden’s Children’s Ombudsman, “When we sought children with long-term symptoms of covid-19 to interview, the response was much stronger than we had expected.”
The report includes striking quotes from children suffering the long-term effects of Covid-19. “I can get very angry at myself if I go out and meet friends and then I’m completely exhausted and I can’t do anything,” said one 11 year-old girl.
A 16 year-old girl lamented her sister’s Covid suffering: “It’s so sick that a person is so completely changed, she’s just sleeping. I just want my sister back.” A 13 year-old boy with Covid-19 reported the very same experience: “I’m tired and I sleep a lot, but it was ok. I got to sleep and they understood that I was really tired, I could sleep even during the examination.”
An aggravating element for long-term Covid-19 sufferers is the lack of awareness and understanding of their plight. “It’s like they don’t really believe me, the teachers. I push myself the most when I’m in school, but sometimes I kind of want to break down in front of the teachers so that they understand how it is.”
With all this in mind, it’s abundantly clear that it won’t be enough to vaccinate just the adults before opening up. We need to vaccinate everyone.