UNITED STATES — COVID-19 has completely changed many lives, especially for kids, who have spent a chunk of their childhood in isolation.
But the effects on them go much further. Dr. Annabelle de St. Maurice, the co-chief infection prevention officer at UCLA, says we have learned much more about how children handle the virus than we did nearly 18 months ago.
“They haven’t been able to play sports. They haven’t had access to museums or libraries and all these other things that many of us had access to growing up," de St. Maurice said. “We know that children under the age of one year may have more severe symptoms than older children. We also know that children under the age of 5 tend to transmit less than older children. These are all things we’ve learned because we’ve been able to look at the science and the data.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as of July, 4.09 million children have tested positive for COVID since the onset of the pandemic.
The AAP says children were about 1-4% of total reported hospitalizations. Dr. Suchitra Rao, an associate professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases and hospital medicine at Children’s Medicine Colorado, says like adults, kids are also experiencing some longer side effects from getting the virus.
“But we have seen pediatric deaths, unfortunately. So far, there’s been close to 350 deaths to the CDC in the United States and just to put that into perspective we see close to 150 to 180 deaths from influenza each year so we’re seeing a lot in terms of numbers there," Dr. Rao said. “They can still have some persistent symptoms like trouble concentrating like heightened anxiety, chest pain, palpitations, some of them prolonged fevers for unknown unclear reasons.”
“So, these numbers are much lower than that in adults, but it still gives us reason to fully vaccinate these children because they are at risk," de. St. Maurice said.
For many, the biggest worry about children right now is returning to school. Children under age 12 are still especially vulnerable to getting infected with sars COV-2. Those are the kids who are still unable to get vaccinated and some parents are questioning if it will be safe to do so when the time comes.
“People are worried about the new technology but I just want to mention this is a technology that’s been around for decades. We would not release anything into the public unless we know that it’s completely safe," Dr. Rao said. “And now, those studies are underway for those younger kids from 6-11.”
“And the data largely demonstrates that transmission in schools does not increase when cases are high meaning that you’re just as likely, or less likely to get COVID from attending school as you are in the community even if rates are really high," de. St. Maurice said.
But both doctors say that’s only the case if prevention measures continue.
“We know that masks work. We know that trying to maintain distance even within a 3-foot distance is effective, and we know that vaccines work," Dr. Rao said.
Children may be less physically affected by the virus than adults; however, they’ve likely been affected more than anyone can see.
“Children years from now will remember this time period and I think will reflect upon how much of a sacrifice these children have had to pay because of COVID-19," de. St. Maurice said.