Doctors explain COVID-19 variant outbreaks and their impact on children

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 6:05 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 8, 2021 at 6:24 PM CDT
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DEFOREST, Wis. (WMTV) - In just the past two weeks, health officials across the upper Midwest have tied at least three outbreaks among children to variant originally found to be circulating in the United Kingdom (UK).

That includes one outbreak at a Dane County daycare. NBC15 went out to find what appears to make kids more vulnerable with these new variants.

“I do have a sense of anxiety when it comes to our kids being out in larger groups settings with families and kids we don’t know,” Michael Braden, a concerned father of two from DeForest told NBC15.

Braden has a career background in health care, but his concerns are focused on his two daughters: four-year-old Harper and two-year-old Nora.

NBC15 asks health officials about the impact coronavirus variants have on children
NBC15 asks health officials about the impact coronavirus variants have on children(JENNIFER SCHNEIDER PHOTOGRAPHY | Michael Braden)

He says these feelings are heightened when he drops the girls off at pre-school and day care.

“We’re more concerned about our two-year-old, she was born premature, and has respiratory issues,” Braden said, speaking for himself and his wife.

To see how threatening these variants are to children, NBC15 checked in with Dr. James Conway, UW-Madison Pediatric Professor and Medical Director Of the UW-Health Immunization Program.

“They don’t seem to be more dangerous as far as what the clinical outcomes are, they just seem to be more transmissible,” Conway said.

Conway said so far, research shows the variant symptoms in kids are the same as the original COVID-19 strain. Kids 15-years-old and younger are more at risk, in part, because they cannot get vaccinated yet.

“It’s probably a combination of things,” Conway said. “A combination of large portion of that population not immune to it, and these [variants] are more contagious than the original strain.”

Until those vaccines are developed for younger age groups, Braden said he will continue to teach his daughters to follow COVID-19 protocols.

“Kids are in the middle of it,” Braden said. “So, I think it falls on parents to educate their kids and do the best they can to exemplify those behaviors.”

Pfizer and Moderna are already researching and testing the COVID-19 vaccine in middle schoolers. Conway estimates those doses could be available for 12-15-year-olds this summer.

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