What is the impact of this variant on children and on their education?
Dr. Hancock: I’ll do a sort of a general overview of what’s going on with our little ones when it comes to COVID and then we’ll talk specifically about the school issue. Historically, the conversation has been that children have not been disproportionately impacted by COVID and for the most part, when compared to adults, that is true, but it’s always important to compare children to children. Children aren’t just little adults. And when you compare COVID to influenza, more children were hospitalized due to COVID over the span of this pandemic. What we know based on the numbers is that children are more impacted by COVID than influenza when it comes to hospitalizations. COVID 19 children’s deaths have exponentially increased since the Delta variant. At one point, children during the Delta variant were making up over 30% of new COVID 19 cases. We had about 139,000 new cases of COVID 19 among the pediatric population with the Delta variant. We’re now well over 300,000 cases per week. The scary thing with the Omicron variant specifically is that we’re seeing a higher rate of hospitalizations, a higher rate of ICU admissions because of the Omicron variant and how it specifically causes infection within the body.
Will we have a vaccine for the children under age 5 soon?
Dr. Hancock: Not likely until another couple of months. So the under-five vaccine trial showed positive results in terms of little ones between the age of six months and under two to have a strong immune response with a very small dose of the vaccine. So they used five micrograms, 10, 20, and 30. And they were able to determine that with this smallest dose, that little ones between the ages of six months and 23 months were able to develop a very good immune response. The little ones between the ages of two and four years and 11 months, not so much. The FDA sent them back to do additional studies. Pfizer had the choice of either altering doses to see which dose triggered a stronger immune response or adding an additional booster to see if a third shot would trigger the immune response. Pfizer made a decision to add a third shot to the series to see if that would provide sufficient immune response. They’re in the process of figuring that out right now, which is why, even though it was anticipated that the six month to four year old vaccine would be available by January, it likely will not happen until the early part of the spring because they still have to answer that clinical.
Is there any end insight in terms of new variations of the virus?
Dr. Mel: Unfortunately not. So one quick view about how our bodies produce variants. Every time a virus enters our body, its whole goal is to make more of itself and it takes over our cell’s machinery to do that. As the viruses are produced, there are chains that can just randomly occur in the manufacturing process. That’s what produces a variation in the original virus, also known as a variant. So every time we’ve seen these infections, which are now in probably the billions across the world, each and every one is an opportunity for a variant to arise. And so we don’t know what the next variant might be after Omicron. There have been reports of something called Delta -cron, which is Delta and Omicron blended. Thus far outside of Omicron we have not identified another variant yet, but that doesn’t mean that one can’t happen. And the quicker that we all get vaccinated and boosted, the more we wear our masks, the more we social distance, the more we avoid indoor dining and indoor venues where we’re mixed with people, the quicker we keep the spread of variants down.