Young children are extremely unlikely to suffer from serious complications from COVID-19. This is strange. Nobody fully understands why. But you know what? I’m sold. It was a difficult year – let’s take our victories where we can. Especially when, as several news agencies have reported in recent weeks, this is good news for many parents during the likely long stretch when they will be vaccinated but their children are not.
Before I started making plans for my post-parent lifestyle, I wanted to understand another aspect of the risk: the role that my unvaccinated children could play other people ill. In the United States, only about 31
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As with many aspects of COVID-19, this question still has no absolute, unambiguous answers. When I asked Jair Goldberg, a professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology who studies how COVID-19 is distributed in that country, he said his team was not yet ready to talk about the data they were collecting. Even a year later, we are still learning as we walk.
But other researchers have told me that the evidence suggests that primary school children are not a major driver of the spread of COVID-19 in communities – at least as long as they follow mitigation strategies such as wearing a mask.
For example, even after many school neighborhoods opened for a while last fall and the number of cases rose to an increase, a study modeling the prevalence of COVID-19 in the United States found that children aged 9 and under were responsible for only about 5 percent from the broadcasts taking place at that time. And these results coincide with what researchers see in other countries. Children in the UK can and do become infected and spread COVID-19, said Rosalind Eggo, a professor and modeler of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. But so far, she said, cases among children have not increased before cases in adults, a sign that they are the ones driving the infection.
The fact that children do not appear to be the leading source of COVID-19 transmission is a bright spot throughout this sad, regrettable year. It can easily be a different situation. After all, the flu works the other way around, said Oliver Ratman, a professor of statistics at Imperial College London and one of the authors of the US modeling study. He told me that with the flu, children are more susceptible to the virus and more likely to transmit it. Moreover, he said, they tend to have more contacts than adults, thanks to spending their days at school or day care.
If COVID-19 spreads like the flu, a community in which none of the children and most of the adults have yet been fully vaccinated will have problems. Unvaccinated, masked children who play outside together, go to restaurants or cinemas with their vaccinated parents, and travel on vacation to other communities would pose a significant risk to many people besides themselves.
So, it is quite a relief that this is not the case, and we see that this fact is reflected in the new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which classify unvaccinated people (including children) who hang out without masks, outside the safest category – as long as the people they are with are vaccinated. However, the risks remain. Young children do transmit the virus and variants such as the more transmitted line B.1.1.7 increase the likelihood of children spreading COVID-19. It is also important to note that these low levels of children transmitting COVID-19 are highly dependent on behavioral modifications – in particular, wearing masks indoors. A brand new study on Thursday found that risk reduction strategies such as teachers wearing masks, children wearing masks, checking symptoms daily and canceling extracurricular activities such as sports make the difference between the personal training that COVID-19 disseminates. from children through their families and personal training, which did not significantly increase the prevalence of COVID-19.
All of this means that vaccinated parents should not like to treat their unvaccinated children as an extension of themselves, said Dr. William Rashka, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center. There will be situations where two vaccinated adults can safely hang out without masks, but their unvaccinated children cannot.
It is also the case that the more adults are vaccinated, the more cases of COVID-19 will be concentrated in young children – simply because it is the only place where the virus remains. Researchers have seen this in the United Kingdom, said Edward Goldstein, a senior epidemiology researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health TH Chan. Children aged 5-12 are already the group with the highest infection rate in the UK
Experts like Raszka say that children who disguise themselves outdoors – unless they are in a large, close-knit group – are probably fine. But indoor masking remains an important way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to unvaccinated people of all ages. After all, the extent to which your children’s lives can change sensibly has a lot to do with how tightly your family has been locked up so far. If your children have been disguised everywhere, indoors and out, the fact that a growing number of adults have been vaccinated and experts say it is safer outdoors than previously thought would seem like a delay. If you’ve already lost your masks months ago, the good news may not look so good.
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