Coronavirus cases have been rising among children in the US, with paediatric doctors reporting an 85 per cent increase in infections among children with the arrival of the Delta variant.
With the school year nearing, health experts fear that children returning to education will be at greater risk of infection, particularly in states where mask mandates have been banned for schools, like Florida and Texas.
As a result, health experts are urging the federal government to fast-track approval for children under 12 to receive the coronavirus vaccine. If infection rates continue at their current pace, health experts worry that school closures may occur in the fall when children return to the classroom.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that children account for 15 per cent of new cases – 94,000 total – reported last week. That accounts for a 4 per cent increase in child cases over the last two weeks.
According to local broadcaster WDSU in Louisiana, outpatient Covid positivity rates among children have raised from 1 per cent a month ago to 20 per cent. Six of the hospital’s 18 child coronavirus patients were in intensive care, with three on ventilators.
“It is heartbreaking honestly to take care of potentially dying children,” Dr Mark Kline, the chief of Children’s Hospital New Orleans told the WDSU. “All of this was likely unnecessary if we as adults did what we needed to do and get the vaccine. We could have protected these children.”
In response to the increasing cases, Lee Savio Beers, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, wrote a letter urging the US Food and Drug Administration to fast-track the vaccinations for children under 12.
“Last week saw the largest week-over-week percentage increase in pediatric Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic,” the letter reads. “Simply stated, the Delta variant has created a new and pressing risk to children and adolescents across this country, as it has also done for unvaccinated adults.”
He concluded that “in our view, the rise of the Delta variant changes the risk-benefit analysis for authorising vaccines in children”.
Children are still far less likely to suffer from the worst symptoms of Covid-19, including death. However, immunocompromised children are still at risk of severe symptoms, and children can still transmit the virus even if they do not fall ill.
Even with a fast-tracked vaccine, however, the US still faces the struggle of convincing half the population to take the shot. Parents who are anti-vaccination advocates or otherwise resistant to taking the vaccine would likely extend that ideology to their children.