Concern grows for younger kids as delta variant spreads

As the more-transmissible delta strain of COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, a local expert is expressing concern about young kids who do not have access to the coronavirus vaccine.

The vaccine has only been approved for people 12 and up, potentially putting younger children at risk.

“It leaves a large proportion of our patient population unvaccinated and especially vulnerable,” said Dr. Alexandra Yonts, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Children’s National Hospital in D.C.

Yonts recommended that everyone over 12 get vaccinated, especially those who have children in their home or work around children.

Yonts recommended that families with kids younger than 12 continue to practice physical distancing, avoid traveling to high-risk areas and wear masks. Masks are still recommended for children 2 years old and above, Yonts said.

The highly contagious delta variant was first identified in India and is now spreading in more than 90 other countries.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the strain accounted for more than half of the coronavirus cases in the U.S. between June 20 and July 3.

“We are still having children who are requiring admission to the hospital for COVID-19,” Yonts said. “They represent the population that has the most risk of infection with this more contagious virus.”

The World Health Organization has warned that the trifecta of easier-to-spread strains, insufficiently immunized populations and a drop in mask use and other public health measures before the virus is better contained will “delay the end of the pandemic.”

Scientists believe the delta variant is about 50% more transmissible than other types.

The mutation is causing worry even in countries with relatively successful immunization campaigns that nonetheless haven’t reached enough people to snuff out the virus.

It’s harder to tell whether the delta variant makes people sicker. British experts have said there are some preliminary signs it may increase hospitalization, but there’s no evidence it is more lethal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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