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How to keep kids safe from the Delta variant

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Vaccinate the adults in your community.

A masked girl touches an aquarium.
Allison Zaucha / The New York Times / Redux

The number of children hiring the coronavirus is on the rise. In the week ending July 29, more than 70,000 children contracted COVID-19, accounting for nearly a fifth of all cases. Although a smaller and smaller number of children have died from the disease,358 Since the beginning of the pandemic, as of July 29, some states, like Florida, now they have dozens of hospitalized children. Few parents want to hear that their little ones can get COVID-19, no matter how low their chances of death are.

The problem, of course, is that children under the age of 12 cannot yet get vaccinated. Until they can be, the best way to protect them is simple: vaccinate all eligible adults and teens around them. “The most important thing parents can do is get vaccinated and vaccinate all their children over the age of 12,” Yvonne Maldonado, an epidemiologist and professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Stanford School of Medicine, told me.

Children spend most of their time with adults, and existing contact tracing data suggests that adults are the ones who make children sick. “We believe there is a reasonably high home attack rate in Delta, which means that one person in the home becomes ill and other people are at risk of becoming ill,” says Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at the Delta. Brown University. .

COVID-19 outbreaks are larger in under-vaccinated areas, so it makes sense for children in those areas to come into contact with more COVID-infected adults. That’s exactly what the numbers show: COVID-19 rates among children appear to be increasing in states where fewer adults are vaccinated. Among the states with the largest recent increases in childhood COVID-19 cases, according to the most recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, are Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, and Florida, states where relatively few adults are vaccinated.

In contrast, vaccinating more adults and older children appears to decrease the number of COVID-19 cases among younger children. In Israel, COVID-19 cases in unvaccinated children collapsed after adults were vaccinated in large numbers earlier this year, despite schools reopening in March. One to study, also from Israel, he found that every 20-point increase in adult vaccination rates in a community halved the number of children who tested positive for COVID-19. “Every time someone gets vaccinated, everyone around them becomes a little more protected,” says Jha.

Some have been concerned, due to a CDC slide show reported by The Washington Post A few weeks ago, vaccinated adults posed a risk to both the unvaccinated, including children, and unvaccinated adults. But this is not the case, say Jha and others. Vaccinated people are less likely to become infected. If you don’t get infected, you can’t pass COVID-19 to other people. Although initially vaccinated and unvaccinated infected people may be equally contagious for a short period, vaccinated people shed the virus more quickly, making them less contagious overall. And among vaccinated people, “we have not seen studies showing asymptomatic transmission, even with the Delta variant, to others, although symptomatic transmission is clearly occurring,” says Monica Gandhi, professor of medicine at UC San Francisco.

For parents living in states or cities with low vaccination rates, experts recommend masking children under the age of 12 indoors, even in schools. And if you are a vaccinated but symptomatic adult, it may also be a good idea to wear a mask at home.

But really, the solution to parents’ concerns about their children is universal vaccination, which creates rings of protection around children. School starts in a few weeks. Young children need adults and teens to get vaccinated.

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