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How dangerous is the delta COVID variant to kids who aren’t vaccinated?

delta variant kids concern
Photo via Iman Shad/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • This story is regularly updated for relevance. Last updated: July 12, 2021

Concerns about the delta variant of COVID-19 are rising, particularly among parents of kids who can’t yet get vaccinated. In the U.S., vaccines are only approved for children 12 and older, and the World Health Organization’s most recent guidelines advise against vaccinating children. But some prominent health officials in the U.S. worry that the delta variant could spread among children, as well as unvaccinated adults, in the summer and fall months.

The WHO website notes, according to guidelines last updated June 22, “Children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, so unless they are part of a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, it is less urgent to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions, and health workers.”

It went on to add, “More evidence is needed on the use of the different COVID-19 vaccines in children to be able to make general recommendations on vaccinating children against COVID-19.”

But former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC, “I think the reality is that kids are becoming more likely to be vectors of these new variants.”

“The old assumptions about children and children [not] driving community spread were based on the original strain of this virus,” he said. “With these new, more contagious variants, I think we’re going to see that children and schools do become more of a focal point of spread.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, echoed Gottlieb’s concerns.

“This virus is more a transmissible virus, therefore, children will more likely get infected with this than they would with the alpha variant,” Fauci said on CBS This Morning on June 23, according to Boston.com.

“The best way to protect the children is to bring the level of virus circulation in the community down,” Fauci observed. “The best way to do that is that those—i.e. adults—who are eligible for vaccination to get vaccinated so you’re not only protecting yourself, but by bringing the level of virus down in the community, you’re indirectly protecting the children who can’t yet get vaccinated. That’s one of the most important ways to do that.”

David Leonhardt, writing a guide in the New York Times to parents worried about the delta variant and their kids, noted that while the assumption is that the delta variant could be slightly worse for children than other versions of COVID-19, he also quoted Johns Hopkins epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo as saying, “I haven’t seen data to make me particularly worried about delta in kids.”

With about 55% of the U.S. adult population receiving at least one dose of the vaccine, COVID cases and deaths have fallen to their lowest levels in this country since the pandemic began. By early July, the delta variant, which one former Biden administration official called “COVID-19 on steroids,” had become the most dominant strain in the U.S.

Read more on the delta variant: 

Sources: WHO, CNBC, Boston.com, New York Times


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