Experts call to vaccinate children with asthma before school starts

Experts call to vaccinate children with asthma before school starts

Parents and carers of children with asthma are being encouraged to vaccinate their children before the start of the school year to help protect them from becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.

Paediatric respiratory physician and member of the National Asthma Council Australia Guidelines Committee Dr Louisa Owens said COVID-19 case numbers had increased substantially following Christmas and New Year celebrations, as predicted.

"Australia's COVID-19 vaccination program opened up to children aged 5 - 11 from 10 January and we are urging parents and carers of children with asthma to get their child vaccinated as soon as possible," she said.

"If parents are unsure about getting their child with asthma vaccinated, then we encourage them to make an appointment with their GP in January and have a discussion before their child starts the 2022 school year."

Data released in 2020 on COVID in children from tertiary hospitals across Australia found that most children with COVID-19 had mild disease, however respiratory conditions were the number one comorbidity amongst positive children, with asthma the leading diagnosis.

The authors of the study also stated that preventative strategies, such as vaccination, including children and adolescents, could reduce both the acute and postinfective manifestations of the disease.

Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) president Dr Karen Price backed the call for vaccinations for children with asthma and said that good asthma control is vital for children starting back at school.

"Our GP network is here ready to answer any questions that parents or carers might have about the COVID-19 vaccine for their child with asthma," she said.

"January is also an ideal time to have a full asthma check-up including a review of your child's Written Asthma Action Plan, medications and inhaler technique for relievers and preventers ahead of the February back-to-school asthma spike."

The National Asthma Council Australia says the sharp rise in children being admitted to hospital with asthma in February each year is thought to be due to a change of environment or allergens, sharing a new set of bugs with classmates, which can trigger colds and respiratory infections and possibly missing preventer doses over the holidays.

The asthma council has prepared the following checklist to help the one in nine Australian children living with asthma, to have a symptom-free return to school:

  • Schedule an asthma check-up with your health provider and discuss the COVID-19 vaccine for your child if you have questions
  • Share a copy of your child's up-to-date Written Asthma Action Plan with school staff and after-school carers
  • Make sure your child knows to tell school staff when they have asthma symptoms
  • Make sure your child is taking any asthma prevention medicine as prescribed
  • Check that your child knows how to effectively use their inhaler by themselves (if old enough), or with help
  • Get the seasonal flu shot every year for your child and family members