COVID-19 Pediatric Cases Continue to Rise

COVID-19 cases occurring in children rose 26.8% from August 26 to September 2, according to new data.

Today’s lesson for teachers and other school employees in the United States: Get vaccinated. Yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released data from 49 states showing that 26.8% of COVID-19 cases from August 26 to September 2 occurred in children. (The definition of a child differs from state to state, starting at birth and ranging anywhere from 14 years old to 20.) In terms of raw numbers, 251,781 cases of pediatric COVID-19 were reported, more than a quarter of the 939,470 recorded overall for that week.

The good news in the AAP report continues to be that children appear to be immune from severe COVID-19. But what about possible long-term effects? Yesterday’s updated data reiterate the message accompanying the data released by the AAP several weeks ago that drew attention because they showed an 18% increase in pediatric COVID-19 cases from August 5 to August 12. Both reports state that “there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”

There’s also an urgent need to keep drumming into the public consciousness—especially those members of the public who happen to work in schools—that vaccines remain the crucial element to protecting everybody, according to most medical experts. Unfortunately, 47.3% of Americans remain unvaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

With all the data lately about the waning effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and the need for many to get booster shots, some experts worry that the main message gets lost. That message? Vaccines prevent severe illness and death.

Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH, an infectious disease physician at the University of California San Francisco, tells Axios this morning that “the idea was to take away this ability of the virus to cause severe disease. That’s what the vaccines do. They’re still doing it, even for people who received them in January, even for people who were in the vaccine trials who received them last summer.” (In an interview with Infection Control Today® last October, Gandhi predicted that the old normal will return by January 2022.)

Paul Offit, MD, a vaccine expert working at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, tells Axios that “people think the vaccine at some level is failing. We’re doing fine. The problem is, the vaccine doesn’t work if you don’t get it.”

A recent study in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) describes just how fast the Delta variant can spread among schoolchildren, since there is no vaccine yet for children 5–12. The study examines a COVID-19 cluster among children after they had been exposed to an unvaccinated and infected teacher in a classroom in Marin County, California.

“This outbreak of COVID-19 that originated with an unvaccinated teacher highlights the importance of vaccinating school staff members who are in close indoor contact with children ineligible for vaccination as schools reopen,” the study states.

(One of the limitations of the study was that “the teacher’s specimen was unavailable for WGS [whole genome sequencing], which prevented phylogenetic identification of the outbreak’s index patient.”)

Perhaps adding to the problem is the fact that many children who get sick in school don’t have the option of being sent to the school nurse. US schools have had to cope with a shortage of school nurses for years. A school workforce study in the Journal of School Nursing notes that about 39% of schools have a full-time nurse, about 35% a part-time nurse, and 25% of schools have no school nurses.