More and more children are testing positive for COVID-19 as the highly infectious delta variant continues to spread rapidly throughout the country.
Of particular concern is the rise in positive tests among children aged 5 to 11 since that group is still too young to be vaccinated.
Illinois Department of Public Health’s most recent figures show some 660 children in Cook County aged 5 to 11 had tested positive for the covid-19 for the week ending August 21st. The numbers have been steadily rising since the end of June, when just 29 children in that age group returned a positive test.
“As it’s been through most of the pandemic we’ve seen the rates (for children) mimic what’s going on with adults,” said Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent, a pediatrician and infectious disease expert at Lurie Children’s Hospital. “As the number of positive adults has increased so has the number of positive children. In the adult population a lot of them can be vaccinated but in the children they can’t so the rates are continuing to rise.”
Dr. Tina Tan, professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine says that the vast majority of COVID-19 cases in the United States are now caused by the delta variant.
“The delta variant accounts for over 93% of the amount of COVID that’s been seen in the community. So the vast majority of the cases (in children) are going to be caused by the delta variant,” said Dr. Tan, who is also affiliated with Lurie Children’s Hospital. She said that while the delta variant was not necessarily more dangerous, it was “definitely more transmissible.”
“And because of its high transmissibility we know that individuals who are susceptible to COVID because they cannot be vaccinated are going to be more likely to get it,” said Dr. Tan.
Fortunately, most children continue to suffer only mild symptoms from the virus, similar to what you would expect from a common cold or allergies. But there are a small number of children who may have more severe symptoms.
“When they start to have issues with keeping fluids down or with their breathing, that’s when they have to be hospitalized,” said Dr. Heald-Sargent.
On Sunday, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper that mandating vaccines for kids in school was “a good idea.”
“This is not something new. We have mandates in many places in schools, particularly public schools,” said Dr. Fauci. “We’ve done this for decades and decades.”
And recent reports suggest that the Food and Drug Administration could soon approve vaccines for use in younger children.
“Currently the trials are ongoing testing the vaccines in individuals under 12 years of age,” said Dr. Tan. “It’s expected that data from those trials should be available by the middle of fall and if everything goes well an EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) for the use of the vaccine in these children should be available by the end of the year.”
And when that happens, Dr. Heald-Sargent encouraged all parents to get their children vaccinated as soon as that is possible.
“Just do it. Please go out and get your children vaccinated,” said Dr. Heald-Sargent. “I know all vaccines are not to be taken lightly, but that is why we have invested so much time and energy as a medical community testing these. We have not skipped any steps. We are making sure that they are as safe as possible and I can’t wait to have my children vaccinated.”