The rise of Covid among children in the U.S. is primarily linked to the Delta Variant. In communities with a low rate of Covid vaccination, the cases are rising. However, CDC recommends universal indoor masking and physical distancing in schools. Mask wearing is optional in Ohio and North Dakota. The rapid circumstances among children and teachers have forced many schools to shut down and stop in-person teaching. This comes even though earlier this year 175 pediatric disease experts have suggested that elementary schools could open full-time
According to recent data, around 4.3 million children are affected worldwide with Covid. About 17000 children have been hospitalized in the US due to Covid, a severe life-threatening post-Covid illness that has been developed by thousands and hundreds have died due to Covid. Children generally have milder Covid symptoms than adults. Few studies have investigated how the disease affects children, which indicates that many unanswered questions like why children are more at risk, why many children are being affected by Covid, etc.
According to Micheal L. Chang, M. D., director of pediatric antimicrobial stewardship for McGovern Medical School and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Texas, “The Delta variant that is circulating widely is more contagious, and children are getting infected more often than previously during the pandemic. Also, across the country, mitigation measures such as masks, reduced occupancy indoors, physical distancing, etc., all ended around the same time.” Micheal further said now more contagious variant is there with fewer mitigation measures in place. With the rising number of cases, more hospitalization will be seen.
Reason for children being affected more –
Children under 12 years of age don’t have any vaccines yet, so Covid hospitalization is increasing. As compared to older adults, many adolescents and young adults remain unvaccinated. This age group is making up a more significant proportion of those at risk for severe illness. In the earlier surge of Covid, schools were closed, and children had a lower risk of exposure. Now schools are open for in-person teaching, so children are at greater risk of getting infected and hospitalized.
According to health experts, vaccines effectively prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death from Covid, including the Delta variant. The majority of the hospitalization and death in the recent surge is mainly happening in unvaccinated people. Earlier in the Covid, people over 65 accounted for the most number of people affected and hospitalized. But now, this age group has the highest number of vaccinated people, so that the disease burden will be seen in the younger, unvaccinated population.
The biggest question here arises the Delta variant is more severe than other strains and will affect children more. As per health experts, they are not sure that whether the Delta variant is more powerful for children than the previous variant, but one thing is for sure that it is more contagious. From the earlier variants, the data to compare the outcome of Covid strains is sparse because of low testing and hospital admissions among children. As schools reopen, safety measures like wearing a mask are not appropriately followed.
According to some health experts, there are indicators to indicate that Covid for Delta variant will be severe among the children than with the earlier variant. More data has to be collected to come to any conclusion. CDC says that children who have medical conditions like metabolic conditions or neurologic, genetic, congenital heart disease, or obesity, or sickle cell disease, or diabetes, or chronic lung disease, asthma, or immunosuppression will have higher chances of severe Covid.
Children under one year of age are at higher risk of the adverse effects of Covid, those with immunocompromising conditions, with underlying conditions. Most of the hospitalized patients are unvaccinated teenagers. Most of the teens are having extreme silliness, and their risk factor is asthma or obesity. Many families think that their children are healthy and therefore are at lower risk of Covid.
There is no data to predict which children will be more affected. According to health experts, research is going to find out why some children are severely affected while others are not. Without underlying conditions risks of death from severe Covid remain a possibility for children as well. Race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic conditions may also play a role in adverse outcomes from Covid among children, but research needs to be done.
Vaccination among children –
CDC currently recommends vaccination for everyone above the age of 12. After Pfizer announced that its vaccine is 100% effective in children aged 12–15, and Moderna announced its vaccine is 100% effective in those aged 12–17, the CDC passed this recommendation. Clinal trial of vaccination for childer below the age of 12 is being carried out. The health experts are hoping that vaccination has been very influential among adults and adolescents, so the same can be expected in children below 12.
The data from the clinal trial of vaccination for children below will come in mid-fall. If everything goes ok then for children between 5-11 years, vaccination will be available by the end of 2021 and for children between 2-4 years beginning of 2022.
What can be done to protect the children –
- The older people in the house who are eligible for vaccination should ensure that they are fully vaccinated. They have lower risks of Covid and possible transmission to children.
- Children with prior disease or weak immune systems should not be encouraged to go to school.
- As the summer will end, schools will repone where mask usage is limited. Many states have passed laws that say masks are not mandatory for school despite the more parents are preferring masks. Masks should be made mandatory at school. Even teachers and other school staff should be encouraged to wear masks in school.
- Maintaining social distancing at school. Setting arrangements have to be such that there is enough space between two students.
- Physical contact should be discouraged in school.
- Classroom with less number of students should be encouraged.
- Good hand hygiene.
- Preventing large gatherings of students, teachers, and staff.
- A well-ventilated classroom should be used.
- Schools have to be well sanitized with lots of attention to cleanliness.
- Covid testing is readily available in the U.S., so health experts recommend testing for teachers, school staff, and students.
- Any symptoms in children should not be ignored. If symptoms are there, immediate testing should be done, and necessary treatment should be taken.
Many children worldwide have been affected by Covid. Children have seen schools shutting down. Many have struggled with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, online classes, the boredom of being at home, etc. Now it is time to take safety measures. The adults in the house should be vaccinated, and children should also be vaccinated when they are allowed. Wearing masks should be encouraged in public places, and schools for children and even adults should follow this when they are in public.
Parents shouldn’t send their children to school if they have infectious symptoms, which may not be because of Covid. Children affected with prior disease or a weak immune system should not be encouraged to go to school. All the necessary safety measures should be taken which have been prescribed by the health experts and government. Children below the age of 12 should take utmost precautions and follow the safety measures because no vaccination is available for this group.