Pediatric researchers have been investigating whether or not COVID-19 is becoming more severe for children. Despite witnessing an overall decline in the COVID cases in US, variants are causing localised flare-ups, stated a report by Bloomberg.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), till early April, the rate of COVID-19 cases in young kids and teens began surpassing that of those of age 65 and above.
The latest CDC data suggests that the trend is persisting. Meanwhile, hospitalisations for children affected by COVID-19 aren't falling as much as for those 18 and up. Researchers fear that variants may be affecting youths in new ways, including a rare inflammatory disease that has been linked to COVID-19 infection.
As per the CDC, which is soon going to update its tally, cases of the rare disease, known as the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, totalled more than 2,000 in February and surpassed 3,000 by April 1.
"The big concern is that we've left a whole population of children unprotected," said Adrienne Randolph, a critical-care doctor at Boston Children's Hospital, currently leading the CDC-funded research.
According to CDC, clinical trials of vaccine manufacturers have mostly emphasised on adults. As of now, almost 72% of those 65 and older are fully vaccinated. Pfizer Inc.'s vaccine has been made available for teens of age 16 and above. Also, it has won authorisation on Monday for the age group between 12 to 15.
The CDC has further said that the vaccines have been found working well in adults against the present virus mutations, including the B.1.1.7 variant identified in the UK. However, number of unvaccinated people are paving way for the variant to spread, which may be daunting especially for children.
The variant, which is much more contagious than the original virus, became the most dominant strain in the US in early April. It now makes up almost 60 % of cases. Similar to the rest of the country, Colorado too saw a surge in COVID-19 cases between November and February. Cases started seeing a spike again last month. B.1.1.7 is the dominant variant.
MIS-C predominantly appears almost about a month after a COVID-19 infection. It may be deadly, but it is also rare. According to the CDC, it can inflame different parts of the body, including the – heart, lungs, brain and gastrointestinal system. Symptoms may vary from abdominal pain to diarrhea or bloodshot eyes. As per CDC, most cases occurred in children between 1 and 14, with a median age of 9.
Randolph has found that children with affected with severe coronavirus tend to have underlying conditions that make them prone to infections, just like adults. But paediatric MIS-C patients tend to be healthy and without COVID-19 symptoms. This study will also examine the vaccine efficacy in children.
"The question is, what is B.1.1.7 going to do in the many states that are out there with lower vaccination rates? And we just don't know that," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
According to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker, children may be more vulnerable in states with low vaccination rates. So far, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Wyoming and Idaho – are the five worst-performing states when measured by percent of population with at least one shot. "Last summer, we saw a huge surge in cases in these Southern states, likely tied to people going into air conditioning in the hot summer months," said Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and researcher at Brown University in Rhode Island.
She further added, "When kids go back to school, they also go back to socializing, the extracurricular activities. In those situations, they're often not masked, not in well-ventilated spaces."