As the number of Delta COVID-19 variant cases spread across North America, people are seeing news of children being hospitalized for COVID-19 in the U.S., and wondering how children in B.C. could be affected.
“The Delta variant is definitely more transmissible than previous strains of COVID-19,” says BC Children’s Hospital Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician Dr. Laura Sauvé.
“We see that there are expanding case numbers and hospitalizations in children in the United States, but we are not seeing this in B.C. or Canada.”
Delta is now the most common variant in B.C. In recent weeks, almost 100 per cent of COVID-19 cases, in both children and adults, have been the Delta variant. Meantime, the proportion of COVID-19 cases for kids aged 19 and under has been relatively stable in the province at about 17 per cent, while hospitalizations have remained at about two per cent throughout the pandemic.
“Children get less sick from COVID-19 than adults – but, rarely, they can get quite sick,” says Sauvé. “And we still don’t know if the Delta variant is more severe for children.
However, the most significant health effects of the pandemic on children in Canada have been the mental health, developmental and educational impacts – so trying to balance safety with maximizing connection with peers and activities continues to be important.”
Vaccines remain the most effective way to protect our loved ones and our communities from COVID-19 – including the Delta variant. More than 72 per cent of youth (at least 224,000) aged 12 to 17 in B.C. have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 58 per cent (at least 180,000) have had two doses. That number continues to grow each day.
“While younger children are not yet eligible for vaccination, the rest of us can do our part to reduce transmission, and help protect everyone from the Delta variant, by getting immunized,” Sauvé says.
Data from Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine trials in children aged two years and older could be available in the months ahead.
“Activities that are outside and not crowded are very safe,” says Sauvé. “But in all indoor public spaces across the province masks must be worn by everyone 12 and older to help slow the transmission of COVID-19 as the province prepares for the fall and respiratory illness season. Grades 4 and up must wear masks inside schools. We also encourage children aged two to 11 to wear masks in public settings.”
- Keeping children and youth home when they are sick
- Making sure kids wash their hands frequently
- Following the current public health advice, including the recommended layers of protection
“The layers of protection can also help protect people from other respiratory viruses, such as influenza and Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV,” Sauvé says. “While B.C. didn’t see any cases of RSV or influenza last winter, we may this winter – certainly parts of the United States and other countries are already seeing that.”