Medical expert explains immunity, and caring for the infected

Ding Yining
Recognizing that immunity is "world's best doctor" on World Strengthened Immunity Day this week.
Ding Yining

World Strengthened Immunity Day, established by the World Health Organization as a reminder of the importance of immunity, will be recognized on December 15.

Immunity is regarded as "the world's best doctor."

It fights disease-causing germs like bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi.

Part of various organs, cells and proteins, it normally runs smoothly and you don't notice its presence.

Medical expert explains immunity, and caring for the infected

How to enhance immunity and offer the best care to vulnerable groups remains a top concern for normalized pandemic prevention efforts.

Chinese people aged over 65 surpassed 14 percent of the total population in 2021.

By the end of November, vaccination rates of COVID for over-80s in China for the first dose and second dose stood at 27.42 million and 23.56 million, making up 76.6 and 65.8 percent of the population.

A total of 14.5 million, or 40 percent of the over-80 population, have been vaccinated with a booster dose.

For those aged above 60, the rate for fully vaccinated was 86.42 percent.

The State Council is accelerating the increase of vaccination rate among people aged 80 and older, and continues to raise that among people aged between 60 and 79.

At the same time, alternative immunity enhancing measures are also brought to the table for cancer patients, and other vulnerable groups.

The views of some noted medical experts across the country shed light on the immunity of cancer patients, infants and immunity deficient groups.

Medical expert explains immunity, and caring for the infected

Children and infants

Winter is peak season for respiratory tract infections in children. In addition to paying attention to COVID, there are other viral and atypical bacterial infections that require attention at the same time.

We also recommend that children aged three years and above be fully vaccinated. Coronavirus are highly contagious when children and adolescents go to school and stay in closed spaces at classrooms and kindergartens.

Getting a seasonal flu vaccination before or during the annual flu season is also highly recommended.

In addition to gaining active immunity through vaccination, oral drugs such as bacterial lysates medicines could stimulate the immunity response of the human respiratory epithelium to reduce recurrent respiratory infections.

These kind of prescription drugs could also be used for immunity impaired adults and elderly at risk of respiratory infections.

While treating children infected with COVID during the outbreak in Shanghai earlier this year, Shanghai Children's Medical Center as the only pediatric hospital in Pudong New Area, found that 90 percent of children were mildly or asymptomatic.

The vast majority recovered spontaneously with supportive treatment.

Children's infection is closely related to direct contact infection in the family, so bear in mind:

  • Those with mild or no serious symptom other than fever could stay at home to avoid cross-infection at hospitals;
  • Choose some anti-fever, anti-cough and anti-diarrheal medications according to their symptoms;
  • Infected patients should live alone, use separate bathrooms as much as possible;
  • Avoid contact with fellow residents as much as possible, increase ventilation in the room;
  • Disinfect the home environment;
  • Parents caring for children should enhance personal protection, wear masks and wash hands regularly;
  • Wear gloves when touching the child's vomit and excrement;
  • Keep a finger clip pulse oximeter at home to monitor child's blood oxygen saturation and detect changes in time

Cao Qing, Director of the Department of Infectious Disease, Shanghai Children's Medical Center

Medical expert explains immunity, and caring for the infected

Blood cancer patients

Blood cancer patients are high risk groups that require medical care instead of staying at home once they're tested positive for COVID.

Previous studies show about 40 to 80 percent of blood cancer patients could gain active immunity after being vaccinated.

Patients with full remission for more than three months might have very similar possibilities of getting adverse effect with healthy people when they get vaccinated, and those who have not been stable yet should consult with doctors to get vaccinated.

Immunity-impaired patients whose immune systems are too weak to respond to vaccines could consider getting antibody treatment to get sufficient protection.

Wang Jianmin, chief physician at the Department of Hematology of Changhai Hospital, Director of the Blood Disease Committee at the Chinese Association of Rehabilitation Medicine

Medical expert explains immunity, and caring for the infected

Cancer Patients

There are more than 3 million new cancer patients in China every year, and the number of new lung cancer patients is around 800,000.

They're more susceptible to the virus and are more likely to develop severe and critical conditions than healthy people.

Therefore, we hope that these cancer patients will get vaccinated as early as possible after they have stabilized following cancer treatment.

However, patients' own immune function is severely impaired when they undergo treatment or when cancer is progressing, since cancer-fighting treatment would further suppress immunity.

For those that cannot obtain sufficient antibody protection through vaccines, antibody drugs could be used as a supplementary means of prevention.

Yang Nong, Chief Physician at the Department of Medical Oncology, Lung Cancer and Gastrointestinal Unit, The Affiliated Cancer Hospital of Xiangya School of Medicine

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