By Guest Blogger Larry Givner, MD, Pediatric Infectious Disease, Brenner Children’s / Wake Forest Baptist Health
With so many questions around the latest strain of the Coronavirus, and the fact that children will be heading back to soon, Dr. Givner, Pediatric Infectious Disease at Brenner Children’s, provides his expert medical perspective on the Delta variant.
COVID-19 vaccination appointments available to anyone who is 12 years of age and older. Appointments are available by calling 336-70-COVID (336-702-6843). For more information on the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine visit BrennerChildrens.org.
1. What is the Delta variant?
The SARS-CoV-2 virus, the cause of COVID-19, frequently undergoes genetic mutations that can increase its transmissibility and perhaps its ability to cause more severe disease. There have been many such variants described since the pandemic began. The Delta variant is now the dominant strain in the U.S. and clearly is capable of increased transmission (about 2x that of the original strain).
2. How dangerous is the Delta variant for children?
With the Delta variant circulating, the number of COVID-19 cases in children is increasing. This includes more serious disease requiring ICU care and ventilators. Many of such children were not vaccinated even though they met the age requirements of 12 years or older.
3. According to the CDC, the Delta variant is more contagious. Does this make children under 12, who are not eligible for the vaccine, at greater risk for becoming infected?
Yes, the Delta variant is more contagious in all age groups. Fortunately, children have been at less risk for disease including serious disease due to COVID-19, however, the risk seems to be increasing. Therefore, we must all do everything we can to protect children, including vaccination for all persons at least 12 years of age and older.
4. Does the Delta variant cause more serious disease?
Currently, we do not have enough data to know whether or not the Delta variant causes more serious disease than the original strain. Fortunately, the COVID-19 vaccines appear to protect against severe COVID-19 disease, including hospitalization or death.
5. How can parents protect their children who are not vaccinated?
Most importantly, all persons 12 years of age and older should be vaccinated, including parents, and anyone living in the household or having periodic exposure to the child. The vaccinees themselves also will be protected (eg, grandparents). Recommended precautions such as social distancing and masking should be followed. All people (vaccinated and unvaccinated) down to 2 years of age should wear masks when in crowded public areas, either indoors or outdoors. At this time, the CDC also recommends all people down to 2 years of age should wear masks in all public indoor spaces in areas with significant community spread, which currently include Forsyth and Guilford Counties. You should check the latest recommendations from the CDC or your State or local Health Department, realizing that these recommendations may vary and do change over time.
6. How likely is it that as a vaccinated parent, I could pass along the Delta variant to my child?
Vaccinated persons can spread the virus, whether they show symptoms or are asymptomatic. Breakthrough cases (those that occur in vaccinated persons) are rare but are to be expected, as no vaccine is 100% effective.
7. Do we know if the Delta variant is more likely to cause Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), the rare but serious condition that has been associated with COVID-19?
Fortunately, the number of cases of MIS-C is not high enough to know whether or not the Delta variant puts a person infected with SARS-CoV-2 at higher risk for MIS-C. However, as the Delta variant is causing more disease, it is logical that more cases of MIS-C will result.
8. How does this affect a return to school? Should I be worried about sending my children back in person?
For many reasons, children should return to in person school. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that everyone who attends school should wear masks indoors. If a school does not mandate masks, the parent(s) may still opt for their child to wear a mask indoors.
9. Do you know if there is a timeline for when vaccines may be approved for use in children under 12?
Hopefully, vaccine(s) will be approved for use by the fall, though it may not be until the end of the calendar year.
*Sponsored by Brenner Children’s / Wake Forest Baptist Health