Health Commissioner: Children accounting for more COVID cases, herd immunity unlikely for Allen County

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The latest numbers show that children are accounting for more new COVID -19 cases than at any other time during this pandemic.

“We are seeing many more cases in children and young adults,” said Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter. “That’s what we saw in Michigan and we’ve been seeing that in Indiana also.”

Children now account for about 22 percent of new coronavirus cases in states that release data age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Just one year ago, child COVID-19 cases made up only around 3 percent of the U.S. total.

“That’s probably related to behaviors outside of school,” Sutter said. “We’re seeing a lot of transmissions still with that in terms of parties, in terms of sporting events and such where people are walking around unmasked. So are we seeing more cases. The good news is most the time with children they do not get severe effects of COVID-19. That’s not the same thing as saying that they don’t get them. There are still some serious effects that some kids will see and the vaccine seems to be very effective against that.”

Sutter said since many adults are getting vaccinated, they are making up less and less of the new cases, causing children to make up a higher proportion of the new cases.

Many children still aren’t eligible for the COVID shot though, only 16 and 17-year-olds. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer’s vaccine for kids 12 and older by next week.

“We wouldn’t expect to see things significantly different for these age groups,” said Sutter on the impact of the vaccine on children. “Since the vaccines have been so safe and effective in the older age groups, we’ll probably see the same things, but we won’t know until we do the tests.”

Pfizer expects to submit for US FDA emergency use authorization for its vaccine for children ages 2 to 11 in September.

WANE 15 also asked Sutter if Allen County is on track for herd immunity, which he roughly considers as 60 to 80 percent of residents getting the vaccine.

“We’ve seen a marked decrease in appointments for first shot vaccines and that suggests to us that we’re reaching a point where most of the adults who want a vaccine and who have easy access to it have gotten it,” he said. “Unfortunately, if this trend continues we will not be at the height of herd immunity, we might be in kind of the 40 to 50 percent of people vaccinated in Allen County and that’s really not enough to shut this down. It might slow things down and it should really decrease hospitilizations, but it means there’ll still be a circulating virus and that means anyone who chooses not to get a vaccine is at risk for contracting the virus and having some of the severe effects.”

He considers 40 to 50 percent just “partial immunity” as opposed to “herd immunity.”

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