People thought they could start relaxing about COVID-19, but then the delta variant came along. As with any virus, future mutations that are more contagious are bound to occur. In the case of this delta variant, people resumed their worry about potential infection, especially if they did not receive the vaccine. What does the more transmissible delta variant mean for unvaccinated children? This article aims to offer advice and information on the matter.
For the majority of the COVID-19 pandemic, children have mostly avoided serious COVID-19 complications. Although an estimated four million kids contracted SARS-CoV-2, the majority of cases were fairly mild. Rare cases resulted in hospitalization and death. Now that summer camps are open, playdates are happening, and school will soon be back in session, parents need to understand the risk for unvaccinated children.
What Is The Delta Variant?
Researchers first noticed the delta variant in India and found it to be 60% more transmissible than the alpha variant from the United Kingdom. The alpha variant was 50% more transmissible than the original SARS-CoV-2 strain. A mere month ago, the delta variant only accounted for about 25-30% of all cases in the United States. Currently, the delta variant accounts for more than 83% of all COVID-19 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What Does This Mean For Children?
Within the past week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that all children over age 2 wear masks upon returning to school. This advice comes regardless of vaccination status. COVID-19 vaccines have only been authorized for children 12 and older in the United States. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see case rates among young unvaccinated children to rise after resuming regular activities like summer camp and school. That being said, these organizations and programs are doing their best to implement strategies that keep children safe from infection.
Is Delta Worse For Children?
Although infectious disease experts expect to see an increase in cases where vaccination rates are low, children still have a low risk of getting seriously ill. The most recent data states that children make up about 1.3 to 3.6% of the total reported hospitalizations. Additionally, 0.1 to 1.9% of all COVID-19 cases in children resulted in hospitalization. A variant that is more contagious will naturally result in more hospitalizations, which explains the rise in rates. The good news is that child hospitalizations are not increasing as a result of the delta variant. Ultimately, though, parents who have children with underlying health complications need to take more precautions. If the child is immunocompromised, for example, more protective measures need to take place. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for children in regards to COVID-19 defense.
What Should Parents Do?
The delta variant may not affect children the same way that it affects adults, but an adult can still infect a child. Adults with children have to be extra careful, especially if they live in an area with low vaccination rates. The disease currently spreads like wildfire in those areas. Health experts advise adults with children to get the vaccine, as all of the current FDA-approved vaccines have proven efficacy against the delta variant. Additionally, consider a slower reopening for the household. There may be an urgent “need” for normalcy, but supporting children’s health is the number one priority. Do not be careless about get-togethers or mask wearing. Try to keep gatherings small and outdoors whenever possible. Lastly, reconsider travel plans because exposure to the delta variant is much higher when traveling.