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The Delta Variant and Kids: Here’s What Parents Should Know

September 15, 2021 • Our Blog • General Health
The news is full of stories about how contagious the Delta variant of the coronavirus is. Find out what the variant means for unvaccinated children and what parents can do to keep them safe. In many ways, life is quickly bouncing back to the way it was pre-pandemic times, and sometimes it seems like the pandemic is completely over thanks to the widespread availability of coronavirus vaccines. Unfortunately, we’re still far from the end of this nightmare. In recent months, the Delta variant has become the dominant COVID strain in the United States — and it does not seem to be slowing its course any time soon. With infection rates rising among the general population, one major question is at the top of many parents’ minds: how does the Delta variant affect kids (who still cannot get vaccinated), especially with schools opening back up?  

What Is the Delta Variant?

The Delta variant is a version of the coronavirus that is estimated to be up to two times more contagious than the initial COVID-19 virus and 40 to 60 percent more contagious than the Alpha variant, making it the most transmissible variant yet. Although the variant does not cause more severe disease than the previous strains of the coronavirus, this transmissibility is a major cause for concern. In fact, it can take just a second of contact indoors without a mask with a person infected with Delta to be infected yourself. 

Kids and the Delta Variant: What Experts Say

Obviously, all of this is very frightening, but there’s good news too. The latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that the hospitalization rate and risk of severe illness has not been increasing among children — a point of particular concern given that they are the only group still unable to get vaccinated.  The reason is that like the original strains of the COVID virus, children are less likely to catch and spread Delta than their adult counterparts. It’s still unclear exactly why this phenomenon exists, but it should provide some comfort for parents with youngsters under 12.  Another piece of good news? The vaccines are extremely effective against the Delta variant according to experts. That means that vaccinated adults not only have less of a chance of catching the virus themselves, they also have less chance of transmitting it than they did the original virus a year ago. That can provide extra safety for unvaccinated children if they are only interacting closely with vaccinated adults. 

Should Parents Be Worried About Delta?

It’s natural for parents to be worried about the Delta variant (and the coronavirus in general). It’s important to remember that children are not more susceptible to this variant than any other version of the virus — they are simply making up a larger portion of the unvaccinated population than before. Even given that fact, experts are less concerned about children getting seriously ill from the virus themselves than about them spreading it to other people who may fall ill.  So should parents be worried? Experts say no as long as unvaccinated children are around fully vaccinated people. The only real concern is for unvaccinated children who are around unvaccinated adults. That means kids are generally safer in areas (like the Northeast) where high vaccination rates are keeping infection rates down. 

What You Can Do to Keep Your Child Safe

The first step parents should take to keep their children safe is to follow all CDC and local health guidelines on physical distancing and masking. As these guidelines change, you can change your behavior accordingly, but you can also always choose to continue masking and distancing beyond the latest guidelines to be extra safe. That could mean always wearing a mask indoors (which, in turn, means making sure you always have one handy in case of an unexpected stop indoors) or only having your children engage in group activities outdoors, where the risk of COVID-19 spreading is significantly lower compared indoors. It’s also a good idea to form a “pod” of vaccinated individuals around an unvaccinated child to create a smaller version of herd immunity.  It’s also vital that parents get their children vaccinated as soon as vaccines are approved for their age groups. Clinical trials are currently underway to gain vaccine approval for young children and experts are cautiously optimistic that vaccines could be available by the end of the year. Once that happens, the best way to keep your child safe against Delta and any other variants is to get them vaccinated right away. Finally, if you believe your child has been exposed to the virus or if you think they’re displaying symptoms, take them to see a doctor right away. At Kids’ Health, a leading pediatric clinic in Beverly, Massachusetts, our doctors are ready to help your child feel their best! Contact us today to schedule an in-person or tele-health appointment. ...