SEATTLE – COVID-19 cases among children were found to be rare. But with the stronger and more contagious B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the UK, some experts said that could be changing.
“It infects children very easily. Unlike previous strains of the virus, we did not see children under the eighth grade becoming infected frequently, ”said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. He spoke about his concerns on Meet the Press on Sunday. He said cases among children in Minnesota are increasing rapidly, making him question in-person learning. “That’s why I was one of those who strongly supported the reopening of classroom learning. B.1.1.7 turns that around. These children are now big challenges in terms of how they transmit, ”he said.
KIRO 7 wanted to know what was happening in Washington.
“I think we really have to wait to see the data, really look at the evidence on whether children are really going to experience more serious disease with the UK variant,” said Dr Danielle Zerr, division chief for Pediatrics. Infectious Disease Research at Seattle Children’s. He said that implementing safety measures is the key to keeping children safe: social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands.
Zerr is working with eight area school districts to screen students and staff for COVID-19 using rapid tests.
“Usually most cases of infection are acquired in the community and brought to school, and then the strategies that schools use limit transmission in the school space,” Zerr said.
If variant B.1.1.7 is found to be spreading in children, he said vaccinating them will be an important part of achieving herd immunity.
“If they affect children as often as adults, and children are likely to pass them on, then children become really important,” Zerr said.
Pfizer is expected to apply for an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12-15 years later this month. The Washington Department of Health stated that if all goes well, the vaccine should be available to children 12 and older this summer.