The delta variant has become the predominant cause of COVID-19 infection in Ohio and throughout the country. With cases and hospitalizations on the rise locally, our children are vulnerable to infection.
Dr. Eric Robinette, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Akron Children’s, answers parents’ questions about the COVID-19 delta variant and insights into how close we are to a safe vaccine for kids under 12.
How prevalent is the COVID-19 delta variant in Ohio?
We’re still learning about the delta variant, but we’re definitely seeing it’s the predominant cause of COVID-19 infection in the United States right now. Cases and hospitalizations are trending up in Ohio, although they’re still relatively low compared to earlier in the pandemic.
Because the number of cases is increasing, children are vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. Although children’s rates of serious illness and complications are significantly lower than older adults, it still can make them very sick in certain cases, particularly the complication called MIS-C, a post-infectious autoinflammatory type of response that causes multiple organ systems to dysfunction.
The more the variant spreads, the more risk we have of other variants emerging and the more risk we have of local outbreaks.
What is MIS-C?
In adults, COVID-19’s primary complication is a severe respiratory infection, like pneumonia. In children, that’s extremely rare. But, what we have been seeing is MIS-C, which usually happens 4 to 6 weeks after a COVID-19 illness and can make kids very sick, very quickly.
We have seen a number of patients treated in our intensive care unit for MIS-C. We think the rate is somewhere between one in 1,000 and one in 10,000 children who get infected with COVID-19 will develop MIS-C. It seems low, but in a city with several hundred thousand people, it still is a significant number of sick kids.
When can parents expect the COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 12?
The clinical trials for kids 6 months to 11 years of age are well underway. They have thousands of children enrolled across the United States and worldwide, so they’re accumulating the data they need to determine whether those vaccines are safe. We’re very optimistic that these trials are going to prove that the vaccines are safe and effective in children.
The trials are more complex than those for 12- to 18-year-olds, however, because they have to try different doses because the children are so much smaller. But, I think we can be optimistic that sometime this fall we could see an Emergency Use Authorization for kids under 12.
Get answers to other common COVID-19 questions.