Coronavirus spread among kids ‘is categorically different with Delta,’ doctor explainsAdriana BelmonteAdriana Belmonte·Senior EditorThu, August 19, 2021, 8:03 PM·7 min readIn this article:
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The number of COVID cases in the U.S. has now surpassed 37 million, with the Delta variant currently accounting for more than 98% of newly confirmed cases in the country.
Unlike during the first waves of the coronavirus pandemic, there are significantly more children being hospitalized for COVID-19 infections amid the latest surge.
“That really scares me,” Dr. James Simmons, an L.A.-based hospitalist nurse practitioner, said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “Kiddos who aren’t eligible for being vaccinated make up about 50 million people in the United States. While the narrative the first time around was kids are a little bit protected from this, we don’t exactly know why they’re not really big spreaders — that’s categorically different with Delta.”
Over 4.4 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with more than 121,000 cases in the week ending Aug. 12, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Cases in children have risen substantially since the beginning of July and now account for 18% of newly confirmed weekly cases, leading to more hospitalizations.
“There’s no doubt there are more children getting infected,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said during a recent press briefing. “The Delta variant is much more highly transmissible than was Alpha. Given that you will see more children likely to get infected — and even though the percentage is small, a certain percentage of children will require hospitalization. So quantitatively, you will see more children in the hospital regarding the severity of illness.”
Delta variant is ‘much more transmissible’The contagiousness of the Delta variant is the key reason why children are getting affected on a higher basis, along with the fact that children under the age of 12 aren’t yet eligible to receive any of the available COVID-19 vaccines.
Pfizer (PFE) is the only vaccine available for children over the age of 12, while both Moderna (MRNA)’s and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)’s are only for those 18 and up. All three companies are working on getting FDA approval to provide vaccines for the younger populations.
Encouraging vaccinations is a crucial part of mitigating the spread: Health officials reported that unvaccinated individuals account for more than 97% of hospitalization and over 99% of COVID-related deaths. Their decision to remain unvaccinated leaves children and immunocompromised people even more vulnerable to contracting the virus.
WEST HAVEN, CT – MARCH 26: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visits with students in a pre-school classroom at West Haven Child Development Center on March 26, 2021 in West Haven, Connecticut. Harris is traveling to New Haven, Connecticut to promote the Biden administration's recently passed $1.9 billion federal stimulus package. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visits with students in a pre-school classroom at West Haven Child Development Center on March 26, 2021 in West Haven, Connecticut. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)According to one study, the viral load for those infected with the Delta variant is 1,000 times more potent than the original strain of the virus. That leads to more transmission.
“I’m really, really scared of kids going back to an environment where they’re not being masked, where the adults are not vaccinated around them,” Simmons said. “I think it could cause a continuing of this surge of Delta that we have to last well into the fall if we don’t put some sort of mask mandates.”
Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is especially concerned for students going back to schools in areas of high transmission.
“I think that’s going to be a problem,” Offit told Yahoo Finance. “We’re going to see outbreaks in schools, we’re going to see school superintendents struggling with quarantine, ultimately with possibly shutting down schools and going back to virtual learning. Hopefully no one dies, but that sort of seems like where we’re heading.”