COVID delta-kids & questions

I did not want to write more about COVID right now – but the Delta variant has dominated questions I have received in recent weeks. I just dropped my youngest son off at college – a school that is fortunately moving forward with a >95% “business as usual” semester. While a college can accomplish remarkably high vaccination rates with mandates— I know, but while controversial they do meet the institutional needs to get back to normal and let these young adults get appropriately social again. Of course not all schools can do this, such as grades schools where under 12 year olds are not COVID vaccine candidates. So what does this mean for risks and actions we all must consider, especially those of us with younger children?

First question I have received the most: Is this Delta variant more harmful to kids? The data say no. This variant is at least twice as contagious, which means the total number of infected will be higher. But the percentages? Let me give you some recent numbers.

August 14 2021 total #’s including adults: 129,000 new COVID confirmed cases (>94% are delta variant in US). 600 died. this remains a death rate of 0.0046, or just less than 1/2% – the same as a year ago prior to the DELTA variant of Sars-COV2.

Numbers related to kids: There are 1900 kids in hospitals in the US out of about 80,000 hospital admissions. That means children under 18 yo represent about 2.6% of those in a hospital—they represent 22% of the population. Death rates remain remarkably low compared to seasonal influenza given the current COVID infection rate. Is it random? Not really as over 80% of all hospitalizations are with children that have at least one “comorbidity”, predominantly listed as obesity and chronic lung disease.[]. It remains clear that the majority (about 95% by CDC estimates) of kids under 12 yo have minor to no symptoms with COVID.

The fortunate aspect of a more contagious virus strain. The mathematics of a more contagious strain is simple. For every one person that contracted the original Sars-COV2 strain, they infected an average or 2 to 2.5 others. But this DELTA variant spreads to about 5 people for every one infected. This means it burns through a population quite fast – as it did in India and the UK earlier this summer. So what does this mean for us in the U.S. Most experts predict the numbers of COVID cases from the DELTA virus strain to significantly wane September – October. In areas of the country where healthcare systems are strained, extra distancing and mask wearing can help slow the spread to allow medical staff to meet the needs of emergency and critical care. But my take home is that I do not expect this to be another fall/winter to be anything like last winter and I cringe at the “here we go again” media headlines I have seen. I believe the math of this virus strain to be a helpful consideration for our mental health and resilience. You can read more about these DELTA variant predictions from some savvy experts here

Second Question: Should I (or my son/daughter) get a vaccine? As you know from my prior post [], I carry my skeptic card close. But I have been impressed that this set of COVID vaccines has delivered an impressive outcome. With current hospitalization data it appears that in some communities that bat only 40% of the eligible population having received a COVID vaccine, over 95% of hospitalizations for COVID in those areas are in unvaccinated individuals. And with 90% of ICU beds filled in many Texas and Florida metropolitan hospitals, it would appear that vaccinations could have been administered to more of the vulnerable population. My 19 yo son did choose to get a COVID vaccine even though he had a brief and mild case of COVID back in March of this year. He chose the vaccine to be better able to “move about the country and the world”—he felt the downside was smaller than the social benefits even though I would have liked natural immunity to be better recognized as per the science available.

Third Question: What do you think about a booster? There is a COVID booster vaccine for moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals – as designated by the patient and physician. Not really a special booster but rather a 3rd dose of the mRNA vaccine class. A booster is only approved for this special diagnostic group due to the understanding that prior vaccine doses might not stimulate enough immune response to be effective in significantly immunocompromised individuals. In all others, these vaccines stimulated a robust immune response which was notably evident when people experienced post-vaccine symptoms.

In short, the DELTA variant doesn’t instill fear or dread in me We have very effective tools to reduce risk for those vulnerable to severe COVID illness. And kids remain a low risk group – within the realm of the kind of risk we have always accepted with seasonal flu, pneumonia and RSV from year to year.

I foresee my next communications with you as a means to discuss health care…the thin type 2 diabetic dilemma, meaningful cardiovascular endpoints, and even viral and infectious resilience. This summer I have seen numerous ULTA lab results from people that have put off their health measures over the past year and a half…And while some look better, the isolation and negative changes in exercise, eating and drinking habits has taken its toll on others.