Children now account for more than a fifth of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Last year at this time, pediatric COVID-19 cases made up just 3% of the total.
Researchers from the American Academy of Pediatrics analyzed COVID-19 case data from the websites of 49 state health departments that report cases according to age groups, says the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP). The percentage of newly reported pediatric COVID-19 cases ranged from 3% in April 2020 to 15.9% in the past two months. Children compose about 22.6% of the country’s population.
According to NPR, AAP said that children accounted for 22.4% of new cases in the past week. Experts believe that the increase in cases is partially due to high vaccination rates among adult Americans, especially the more vulnerable elderly.
Easing restrictions for youngsters, including in person schooling, is also contributing to the rise in new cases in children. Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatric infectious disease expert at the University of Colorado and vice-chair of AAP’s Committee on Infectious Diseases, told NPR that the new B.1.1.7 variant appears to be more transmissible and may be contributing to the increased number of COVID-19 cases in kids.
He added that more children are attending in person schools and without proper mitigation efforts, there’s bound to be a rise in the number of cases if there is a surge in surrounding communities.
“The other thing that we’re seeing is more outbreaks in school-related activities, particularly sports and indoor sports in particular,” O’Leary told NPR. The expert reiterated that the increased proportion of new cases in children is a natural reflection of our vaccination progress.
“As older portions of the population get vaccinated and we’re still seeing circulation, it just stands to reason that the kids who are not eligible for vaccination yet are going to make up a larger share of that pie,” he said. O’Leary said that the Pfizer vaccine may be approved for those aged 12 and over in the next few weeks.
“So that could be a big game changer because we’ve known all along that adolescents tend to be both more likely to get infected and to spread the infection to the younger kids,” O’Leary said. He admitted that, in general, children have less severe cases than adults, especially older adults, but lately some states have reported in increase in hospitalizations in kids with COVID-19.
“So, the point I’m making is that yes, it’s less severe, but it’s still potentially a very severe disease. We’ve seen tens of thousands of hospitalizations already. So, we do need a vaccine for children, not just to protect, not just to achieve herd immunity, but also to protect the children themselves.”
According to The Washington Post, the sooner young people get vaccinated against COVID-19, the closer we will come to achieving herd immunity in the country. There are 73 million people under the age of 18 in the United States and having them protected would be a huge leap forward not only for America but even within family groups where some individuals are vaccinated while others are not.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that older teenagers are likely to be eligible for their vaccine by the fall, but younger children will probably have to wait until 2022.
“Vaccinating the children, particularly in the context of the teachers and the parents feeling more confident as we get both high-schoolers and elementary kids back to school, that’s an important goal,” he said, according to the Post.
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