The general message earlier in the pandemic was that kids are not at high risk for COVID-19 and do not easily spread it to one another. With the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant, that message is changing.
Dr. Jim Versalovic is pathologist-in-chief and interim pediatrician-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.
“Children definitely are susceptible. Children and adolescents and young adults for that matter. And so, in 2020, I think that message was drowned out by the obvious concern for… older adults and for the elderly,” Versalovic said.
He says Texas Children’s has seen over 15,000 COVID-19 cases in children this year.
“About 10% of those children do end up hospitalized and roughly a third of those hospitalized do end up in critical care. It’s very important that we take this seriously,” Versalovic said.
Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination. Versalovic is involved in a clinical trial at Texas Children’s and says data from that trial won’t even be submitted to the FDA until “sometime in September at the earliest.” That means many kids will start the school year unvaccinated – which Versalovic says is a concern.
“I am hopeful that we’re going to be back in the classroom of in-person learning,” Versalovic said. “But I do think that schools need to be mindful about masking, distancing, sanitizing, having sanitizers readily available to children in schools.”
Versalovic says families with eligible children should get them vaccinated as soon as possible and those with younger children should continue to take the precautions recommended earlier in the pandemic.
“When we’re in public, crowded spaces, especially indoors, but even outdoors, be mindful when in a crowded environment, particularly among strangers, that where you don’t know the vaccination status of the group, children should try to mask as much as possible. And parents should be good role models. Even if they are vaccinated,” Versalovic said.