No link between Covid vaccine and reports of hepatitis in children, says health expert

Professor Martin McKee said the condition was serious, but very rare
No link between Covid vaccine and reports of hepatitis in children, says health expert

Vivienne Clarke

A public health expert is adamant there is no link between the Covid-19 vaccine and reports of growing numbers of children with hepatitis.

Professor Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that reports of hepatitis cases were coming from around the world.

“There's been a huge amount of work to try to understand what's been happening.

“The areas we're looking at are some sort of virus, some toxin, and possibly some sort of immune response,” he explained.

It was not surprising that links with Covid-19 were being examined, but the cases to date were not as a direct result of the virus, he said, adding that it could however be a later response.

Concentration at the moment is on whether there is a viral or infectious cause, or if it is a later consequence of an immune response to something else, Prof McKee said.

“We do know that you can get a disordered immune response in children, which has been very dangerous and can potentially have an impact on the liver.”

However, links to the Covid-19 vaccine have been absolutely ruled out, he said: “These children have not been vaccinated. I can say definitively that this is one possibility we can exclude with absolute certainty.”

Intensive exchanges of information were being made across the world in an effort to understand what was happening, including microscopic examination of the liver and looking at markers in the blood and exposure to previous infections, Prof McKee said.

"It is a very serious condition, but also very rare. While clearly every case is a tragedy, we are not seeing very large numbers that we might be more worried about if that was the case. But that should not diminish the fact that this should not be happening."

There was no evidence that children with pre-existing conditions are at any more risk, he added.

“We have to be careful about speculating too much, there are still a lot of things that are unknown, but I think we are now looking at perhaps some sort of abnormal immune response to a previous infection and perhaps with Covid.”

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