As Covid-19 Cases Rise in Kids, Scientists Examine Immune Systems
Experts are eager to understand what protects most children from becoming severely ill with the disease.
Until the delta variant laid siege this summer, nearly all children seemed to be spared from the worst ravages of Covid, for reasons scientists didn’t totally understand.
Although there’s no evidence the delta variant causes more severe disease, the virus is so infectious that children are being hospitalized in large numbers — mostly in states with low vaccination rates. Nearly 30 percent of Covid infections reported for the week that ended Sept. 9 were in children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Experts say it’s a question of basic math. “If 10 times as many kids are infected with delta than previous variants, then, of course, we’re going to see 10 times as many kids hospitalized,” said Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
But the latest surge gives new urgency to a question that has mystified scientists throughout the pandemic: What protects most children from becoming seriously ill? And why does that protection sometimes fail?
“This is an urgent and complex question,” said Bill Kapogiannis, senior medical officer and infectious-disease expert at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
“We are doing everything we can to address it, using all the tools we have available,” Kapogiannis said. “Answers can’t come soon enough.”