The shortage of over-the-counter pain relievers for children may be just the most obvious sign that the latest wave of COVID-19 is spreading rapidly among the younger and less vaccinated segment of the population, according to some experts.

“Omicron is affecting children more than (previous strains),” said Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at the Temerty School of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Like most people, children are no longer required to wear masks or social distancing, both practices that reduce the risk of contracting COVID. The opportunity for that contact abounds with the return of summer camps and festivals. As a group, children under the age of 11 are also not fully vaccinated, increasing the risk of serious illness after infection.

All of this, plus the fact that the highly transmissible Omicron variant more easily infects children than previous strains should warrant extra caution on the part of parents, Banerji said.

“We should be a little more worried. Children and young people should be vaccinated,” said Banerji. “We ruled out COVID for younger people early on, in part because fewer of them were getting infected at the time.”

Banerji said children are more likely to be infected now than in past waves, and infection carries a risk.

Although COVID is mostly mild in children, may cause they can develop a rare but serious condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, which is characterized by fever and pain, and can cause multiple organs to become inflamed. It is also believed that children can develop COVID for a long time.

Children under the age of five only became eligible for vaccination last month, but if vaccination rates for older children are any indicator, it could be a while before most of them get their shots. only 40 percent of Ontarians ages five to 11 have received two doses, despite being eligible since November.

The reason many observers have to rely on clues like empty pharmacy shelves to gauge the presence of COVID is the lack of data recorded by the province.

Ontario’s COVID testing infrastructure was unable to keep up with demand after the highly transmissible Omicron wave hit last winter. The province then drastically reduced access to high-precision laboratory tests, with the result that approximately 60,000 weekly tests they’re being made now, down from more than 400,000 a week at the December peak.

Instead, experts look for COVID in our wastewater and rely on people to self-report rapid test results.

That’s why Banerji fires Public Health Ontario COVID Case Data. It currently indicates that children aged five to 11 have the lowest infection rate of any age group.

“They’re not really measuring it,” he said. “People are getting infected, but we don’t know to what extent.”

Jen Belcher, vice president of strategic initiatives and member relations for the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA), said the resurgence of viral infections, including COVID, has likely led to increased demand for over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol. and Advil.

“Now that we have removed the public health precautions that helped limit the spread, we have seen the return of the common cold, influenza,” Belcher said. “We haven’t been in contact with people for quite some time, so our natural immunity has waned.”

According to the OPA, supply of children’s Tylenol has been tight in Canada for months, in part because pharmaceutical companies are grappling with supply chain issues, such as unavailability of certain drug components, as well as shortages of labor due to outbreaks and resignations in warehouses. .

In a statement to Simcoe.com last month, Johnson & Johnson, the maker of children’s Tylenol, said it was working to meet growing demand.

“We continue to experience increased consumer-driven demand with certain products and markets. We are taking all possible measures to guarantee the availability of the product.”

The company did not respond to an update request from Star this week.

Belcher said the lack of children’s Tylenol is affecting parents across the country.

“Uncontrolled fever, especially in younger children, can be medically dangerous,” he said.

“And shortages can lead to situations where parents unaware of the danger may turn to adult products and use them inappropriately for a child.”

Belcher cautioned any parent considering this to consult their health care provider first.

“It’s important to get quality information from someone who knows your child, rather than looking it up online and hoping or believing it applies to your situation.”

Ben Cohen is a reporter for the Star in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @bcohenn

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