A pediatrician answers your questions about kids, COVID-19 and the delta variant

Now that the COVID-19 delta variant is rampant, the unvaccinated people are most at risk, including children under 12 who are not yet eligible for injections.

Medical experts are seeing more children from San Antonio suffering from the disease. We asked Dr. Korina DeLeon, a pediatrician for the Children’s Hospital in San Antonio’s Primary Care Unit, what doctors know about children, COVID-19, and the delta variant — and what we can do to keep children safe.

What do we know about children and the delta variant?

The data on children and the delta variant are missing because medical professionals do not sequence all COVID-19 cases (undergoing the process of identifying virus strains).

We do know that the delta variant transmits much faster than the previous strains of the coronavirus. We know that more children are getting COVID-19 now than when the pandemic started 18 months ago.

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Data shows that children make up about 20 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the US. There is also a higher number of hospitalizations for children and the pediatric intensive care units are filling up.

Should children wear more than one cloth face mask to protect against the delta variant?

Any face mask is better than none! However, “gators” are not effective. Children do not need an N95 face mask, but they should wear a mask that fits well around their nose and mouth. They don’t have to constantly touch it or adjust it, and a mask shouldn’t be so loose that it could fall off a child’s face.

If my child has already contracted COVID-19, should they be vaccinated?

Yes, even if your child is already infected with COVID-19, they should be vaccinated. We don’t know how long their immunity will last. There are also different variants and strains, which can cause them to get COVID-19 again.

How can I protect my child at school?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics encourage universal indoor masking — meaning children, teachers and school staff must wear face masks. Children should not touch their faces and should often wash and/or disinfect their hands.

When they are old enough, they should be vaccinated.

What should I do to protect my child who is too young to be vaccinated now?

Parents and grandparents should get vaccinated to help protect their children and grandchildren and help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Wear a mask at indoor gatherings with people who are not immediate family members and encourage people near your child to wear a face mask.

When might younger children be eligible for a vaccine?

Studies are underway for both Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11. We’re not sure when the federal government will grant approval for this age group, but we hope it will be by the end of this year.

Should we worry about the next variant? What can we do to prevent it?

Viruses mutate. That has been known for a long time. We know that the flu (flu) does this, which is why we need to get flu shots every year. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, we need to get vaccinated and wear masks until the wave subsides and we achieve herd immunity.

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