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Column originally published May 31, 2022

Respiratory Infections After Lifting Of Covid-19 Restrictions

Question: Our two-year-old daughter was born shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic started. She is a happy and healthy girl. Few months ago, I have to put her in daycare because I need to return to the office. Since then, she has been sick almost every few weeks with colds and coughs. Every time that she was sick, I got sick also. I have tested many times and was negative for Covid-19 virus. I have been coughing a lot, to the point that I have to use my puffers again. When I was growing up, I had asthma and needed puffers daily. My asthma has been better for years, until now. I did get two doses of Covid-19 vaccine, but I am reluctant to get the booster dose. I don’t know whether the vaccine is making me more susceptible to these viruses. I have read things online suggesting that this can happen. Is it possible?


You have a very interesting question. I don’t think the Covid-19 vaccine has altered your immune system and made you more susceptible to other viruses. There is another explanation that I can offer to you.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, public health authorities have issued a number of strategies to reduce the spread of Covid-19 virus. At the beginning, these measures were quite drastic: closure of school and daycare, most workers were required to work from home, no indoor gatherings except with immediate household members, physical distancing, and no indoor dining at restaurants.

As a result of these measures, children were not able to play with each other. There was also reduced interaction among adults. Almost immediately, we saw a sharp decrease in influenza and other respiratory virus infections. Emergency rooms and physician offices saw a sudden drop in sick patients seeking help for these infections.

Your daughter was born after the beginning of the pandemic. She likely didn’t get colds until she went to daycare. We know how children share everything when they play together. In spite of measures like screening for illness and extra cleaning, children have been sharing these respiratory viruses. As a result, there have been outbreaks of Covid-19 infections in many daycares. Moreover, it is not just Covid-19 virus; children are getting sick with many other respiratory viruses.

Your daughter had no exposure to viruses since birth until recently, when she went to daycare. Every virus that she was exposed to, she would get infected because she has no prior immunity, and brought the viruses home to you. You

were likely exposed to most of these viruses before when you were growing up, but less likely in recent years as an adult. The immunity that you have built up in your body against these viruses would have declined because of lack of recent exposure to them. As a result, when you daughter passed along these viruses to you, you got sick once again. Over time, you will build up your immunity against these viruses, and will be sick less often.

I don’t think the Covid-19 vaccine has altered your immune system and made you more susceptible to other viruses. Rather, a lack of exposure to these viruses in recent years as an adult resulted in your decreased immunity to them.

I urge you to take the booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine. It is recommended for children and adults who have received their second dose of vaccine more than 6 months earlier. This is because the Covid-19 virus has changed; it has mutated so much that two doses of vaccine are not enough to protect you against serious illness. You are back to the office, and your daughter is going to daycare, both of you can be exposed to Covid-19 virus. Protect yourself with this booster dose so that you won’t pass the virus to your daughter who is too young to get vaccinated.