Recently, lots of parents have been concerned about the Delta Variant of COVID-19. Many of you have been asking questions, so we decided to create an FAQ to help answer some of the most common ones.
Q: “Should Covid vaccinated folks wear masks indoors?”
A: Yes. Many of us had hoped that by getting vaccinated, we could do away with the masks. At this time, even “fully Covid-19 vaccinated” individuals may catch Covid “Delta” variant and pass it on to others, even if we have little or no symptoms of Covid disease.
Q: “Is the Covid-19 “Delta” variant more contagious than original strains?”
A: Yes. Delta Covid produces a much higher “viral load” (more virus in the nasal & upper respiratory passages) than in prior Covid strains. So instead of passing Covid on to 2-3 other people, each Delta Covid infected person can spread disease to 6-8 other people – so yes, Delta IS more contagious. That’s why it has been spreading much faster through communities, especially those with fewer vaccinated people.
Q: “Can we get tested specifically for “Delta” variant?”
A: NO – Both rapid antigen and PCR tests simply tell you it’s Covid.
Q: “Is there still a benefit to getting the Covid vaccine?”
A: With all the information we have at this time – YES!
Recently, 85-97% of the deaths from Covid have been in unvaccinated, or not yet fully vaccinated people. The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines in particular appear to be saving lives, especially in the older, more fully immunized, age groups. Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, and even the Johnson & Johnson, appear to offer significant protection against severe Delta variant illness. The higher the percentage of people in our communities who have immunity, the fewer “hosts” Covid will have the opportunity to infect. Conversely, the more Covid infections in a community, the greater the chance for Covid to develop even more virulent strains.
Q: “My child already had Covid last year. Aren’t they protected?”
A: Unfortunately, natural immunity from illness from original Covid strains does not appear to provide lasting protection against the Delta strain. If it’s been 3 months since infection, the CDC now recommends Covid vaccination.
Q: “Which Covid shot can my 12+ year old /young adult receive?”
A: At this time, the Pfizer mRNA vaccine(2 shots at least 3 weeks apart) is the only vaccine with emergency use authorization(EUA) for teens. The Moderna vaccine(2 shots, 4 weeks apart) may get EUA for teens soon. Both of these vaccines appear to be very effective in preventing hospitalization, and serious consequences of Covid, including Delta variant, disease.
Q: “Is the mRNA Covid vaccine safe for my teen?”
A: At this time over 10 million doses of Pfizer mRNA vaccines have been administered to teens and appear to be SAFE, EFFECTIVE and well tolerated in most who receive it. Most reports by teens are of mild to moderate arm soreness, a few have brief fever, achiness, with symptoms typically resolving in 12-36 hours. There is no evidence of Covid mRNA vaccine effects on infertility, magnetization, implantation of tracking chips or other sensationalized claims. There have been rare reports of isolated cases of heart inflammation, generally self-resolving, after a second dose. On the other hand, to put this in clear perspective, there have been MANY MORE cases of heart inflammation, lung damage, nervous system changes in Covid-INFECTED individuals – making Covid infection a much more dangerous threat to health.
Q: “When will there be a Covid vaccine for younger(<12 yr. old) children?”
A: Stay tuned – possibly this fall/winter. Clinical trials in younger children (many here in Denver) are currently underway looking carefully at effectiveness, side effects and dosage. Only when physicians and scientists tasked with this important review are confident, will this vaccine get EUA/approval for use in younger children. We anticipate the 6-11 year old age group may be next eligible.
Q: “Will Partners In Pediatrics be giving the Covid vaccine?”
A: We hope to in the near future. We are currently undergoing final approval, and then guidance on storage and administration for those eligible. We will let our families know when PIP can start this program.
Q: “I’ve heard that Covid is not as serious in children, so why the concern now?”
A: Up until now, Covid has caused relatively fewer deaths in those < 19 years old. BUT, 1) Delta variant is much more contagious, 2) that’s causing many more cases in children, 3) there is no vaccine to protect our young children. Already the CDC has noted more deaths in children during the pandemic than deaths from influenza. Any preventable death in a child is one too many. Hospitalizations for children with Delta variant have been increasing significantly, especially in parts of the country with lower vaccination rates. Also, some children who have had even mild Covid have become ill 3-4 weeks later with a “multisystem inflammatory syndrome Covid” (MIS-C) – a rare but life-threatening illness. With higher numbers of Delta infection, pediatricians are concerned we’ll see more of this.
Q: “What can parents do to protect young children?”
A: Wearing a mask indoors, good hand washing, and appropriate social distancing are still the simplest, most effective actions we can encourage and model, even in those who are vaccinated. These measures absolutely helped to slow Covid infection spread last winter (and that of flu, RSV and a myriad of other airborne germs!). If your child’s school/school board is making mask wear decisions, it can make a difference for you and other parents to speak up to promote this important policy.
Q: “How can parents get a Covid vaccine now?”
A: In Colorado, check for vaccination sites in your area at Colorado.gov or, even easier, text your zip code to 438829 to find walk-in appointments in your neighborhood.
Q: “What about returning to school?”
A: We absolutely agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics that it’s important for the “emotional and academic health” of children to be able to return to in person learning at schools. We also strongly support mask wearing in the classroom/indoor settings to help kids be able to stay in school throughout this year. Even if your child is exposed to a case of Covid, if they were wearing masks, that makes transmission far less likely and can help your child avoid the need to quarantine. Home school instruction is also a choice some families select – you know your child’s learning style and family situation best.
Q: “Anything else we should know?”
A: Speaking of “emotional health”, an unexpected benefit we’ve been seeing in our Covid-vaccinated teens is that many of them are experiencing less anxiety. Teens tell us they feel “relieved” to have been able to do something to help protect themselves, their families, and friends and hope it will help them return to a “new normal”. We’ve been so happy to see this trend!
Finally, stay tuned to trustworthy sources like CDC.gov, AAP.org, ChildrensColorado.org/Covid and PIP. Never in history has there been more detailed and careful monitoring of a virus. Covid will mutate, advice will be updated and there will be new information to share.