Don’t Let Children Be The Casualties Of Covid-19 Complacency

Collecting comprehensive data on how children are affected by Covid-19 has been neglected in favor of competing priorities during the pandemic. Yet as overall cases currently decline in the U.S., an increasing percentage of cases are children, the issue demands urgent attention. As Covid-19 restrictions are rolled back across the country, unvaccinated and unprotected children will be casualties of complacency towards the virus. There is an immediate need to prioritize the vaccination of children and remain vigilant about public health measures such as masks and social distancing.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that as of May 27, 2021, children represented almost a quarter (24.3%) of the new U.S. weekly cases. Cases as always can also be unreported, with the true number being higher. Research from the CDC also shows that over 90 percent of Covid-19 cases under the age of 18 may have been missed during a surge in Mississippi in August 2020. In early April, the case rate in young children and early teens began surpassing that of those 65 and older, according to the CDC. And hospitalizations for children with Covid aren’t falling as much as for those 18 and up. The increase is likely related not only to a return to in-person learning and the country’s reopening but also to the higher transmissibility of the circulating variants.

new preprint study confirms this hypothesis, providing evidence that children can be significant carriers of more contagious variants, such as the UK and California variants. The study’s authors sequenced the genome of 2,119 tests from Covid-19 patients age 18 or younger, from March 2020 to April 2021, to identify variants of concern, along with key mutations that increase transmissibility or help the variants hide from the patient’s immune system. In total, the researchers identified 560 of these mutations, and 75% (420/560) were in children less than 12 years of age. The tests came from nine different children’s hospitals representing a diverse geographic and socioeconomic population within the U.S.

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Originally published on Forbes on June 3, 2021

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.