Fears are growing about rising Covid-19 infections among children as the United States is turning into a bellwether for other countries, some of which are preparing for a return to school without mask mandates in classrooms and access to vaccines for younger age groups.
- The US has experienced an unprecedented rise in the number of cases among children, surpassing levels seen since last winter’s spike. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (the Children’s Hospital Association), there were more than 180,000 children in the week ended August 19. This is an increase of 38,000 cases per week at the end of July. Officials are worried that the situation could worsen with the return of school and the increase in the Delta variant. On Monday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave full approval to Pfizer’s vaccine for people aged 16 and older. Soon, approval for youth aged 12-15 years is expected.
- The UK saw a drop in infections after the July summer vacation, and there are fears that the numbers will rise again in September when schools reopen. There are no mask mandates in classrooms and while the UK medicines watchdog has approved the Pfizer and Moderna shots for children and teenagers aged 12 and above, only clinically vulnerable teenagers have been able to get them so far. Although the government announced Sunday that the vaccine will be available to 16- and 17 year-olds by next week, there have been no details about the inoculation for younger children.
- Two studies released this week suggested waning immunity from Covid-19 vaccines but stressed that the shots still provide high levels of protection against severe disease for most of the population. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that vaccine efficacy at preventing infection dropped from 91% to 66% once the Delta variant accounted for most of the circulating virus. UK researchers discovered that protection declined slightly in six months for people who received two doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines or the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccinations. People who have been vaccinated more than six months ago may be at greater risk for Covid-19. This further supports the need to get booster shots in fall.
- This news comes as Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the pandemic would not be under control until next spring. Even then, most Americans vaccine skeptics will need to make changes. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of vaccinations, but millions of Americans remain hesitant about getting them.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) said this week that Covid-19 cases appear to be plateauing globally after increasing for nearly two months. The largest increases in cases in the Americas and Western Pacific regions were due to the spread of the Delta virus in Australia. The country’s single-day cases have repeatedly surpassed its August record, surpassing it every week over the past week.
- With the rise in Covid-19 cases, it is now possible to question the merits of many countries from Asia-Pacific. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison hinted at an end to the country’s zero-Covid strategy in an opinion piece published Sunday, warning Australians to expect a rise in infections as restrictions ease. New Zealand authorities reported 62 new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases Wednesday — the highest number in a single day. However, China reported no new cases on Monday for the first time since July, as authorities double down on their stringent zero-Covid approach.