Kids are back in school this week, and while COVID-19 might still be on parents’ minds, chances are their children already got it sometime over the past two years.
New data from a CDC study show the vast majority of children — just shy of 80% — contracted the virus at some time over the past two years.
Locally, the data shows 75.4% of kids in the District tested positive for COVID-19, 73% in Maryland and 76% in Virginia.
Between the three, it’s likely that more than 2 million kids had the virus, far higher than actual recorded cases of those under 18, according to data from an ongoing CDC seroprevalence study.
“The CDC takes stored laboratory specimens around the United States, and they survey it for what’s called nucleocapsid antibody,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, infectious disease doctor with University of California San Francisco. “That’s an antibody that indicates that children or adults or anyone has been exposed to COVID — not vaccination.”
She said this is good news for worried parents for kids going back to class.
“This should be comforting. This kind of data really tells us, as we see more and more infections, more and more vaccinations, we are getting more and more immunity, which makes us safe — even in school settings — from what we dread the most, which is getting sick from the infection.”
While most kids, including the youngest, have some natural immunity she still suggests that they get vaccinated.
“Natural immunity does work. I will say though, the strongest immunity you could get, it’s probably a combination of both one infection, one vaccination,” Dr. Gandhi said. “And some parents may want to do that. Given that we do have those vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, available down to 6 months.”
While most kids have probably gotten the virus, deaths among children still remain low. Virginia has reported around 23 deaths and Maryland reporting around 26 since the beginning of the pandemic.