Director calls for vaccines as new strains pose great risk to children | Covid-19

New strains of the COVID virus are now rampant in Arizona, which could be responsible for a worrying increase in cases in children, according to health officials.

Hundreds of cases have been identified in Gila and Navajo counties caused by one of the more infectious variants.

“They don’t test every sample, so we have a lot more than we realize – and a lot more infections in children,” said Janell Linn, Navajo County’s director of public health, this week.

Before January, 5% of new infections were in children. However, as the total number of cases decreased, the proportion of new cases in children increased. Children accounted for 13% of cases in January, 17% in February, 26% in April and 23% in March.

Fortunately, school is now out and the federal government has approved the use of the safe and highly effective Pfizer vaccine in teenagers ages 12-18. Approval of the Moderna vaccine in children is expected shortly. Epidemiologists say the tests could be completed to allow these two vaccines to be used in children between the ages of 6 and 12 in the fall.

The worrying surge in infections among children comes with the slowdown in the mass vaccination campaign – especially in states like Arizona. The sharp decline in daily cases due to the numbers vaccinated so far and the state’s decision to lift most of the restrictions have persuaded many people not to get vaccination despite the fact that we are far from being protected by herd immunity.

The faltering vaccination efforts and the increase in variants come as scientists began to solve the mystery of why some strains spread much faster – and why children are less likely to be infected or become seriously ill.

The new research puts a dark background on the otherwise encouraging decline in infections – both nationally and in the Apache and Navajo counties.

Nationally, 62% of adults have received at least one injection and the number of new cases has fallen by 45% on a daily average over the past two weeks.

Arizona is lagging behind when it comes to vaccinations – only 37% of the population are fully vaccinated and 47% have received at least one dose. As a result, the daily number of new cases in Arizona has fallen by an average of only 27% over the past two weeks. Arizona still reports about 400 new cases every day – a rate of about 7 per 100,000.

In Gila County, about 42% are fully vaccinated and the incidence is down 46% to 4 per 100,000.

So if it weren’t for the proliferation of the more contagious and potentially deadly varieties – Arizona could feel more confident.

But the variants that have devastated India, South America, and Africa seem to have developed new ways to escape the immune system – potentially putting children at risk in the process.

The “alpha” variant, which caused a third wave of new cases and school closings in England, has likely become the predominant variant in Arizona, according to limited genetic testing of new cases across the state.

Alpha has 23 mutations. Initially, the researchers focused on the eight mutations in the spike protein that enable the virus to infiltrate cells in the body – which it then converts into deadly virus factories.

However, additional research has focused on other mutations that allow Alpha to thwart the immune system’s early warning system, according to a report published online by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine – but not yet published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal .

The variant has a gene that makes proteins that appear to delay the production of interferon – the immune system’s main alarm. Alpha floods the area with a protein that blocks the interferon alarm, making it virtually invisible to the immune system for about 12 hours.

As soon as the immune system sounds the alarm again, the virus has built up its numbers. This brings the immune system into overdrive – with a cough, fever, and other reactions that accelerate the spread of the virus to others.

The researchers found a similar mechanism in the beta variant identified for the first time in South Africa and the delta variant identified for the first time in India. These variants also initially suppress the production of interferon. However, they use a different mechanism than alpha, the researchers concluded.

Perhaps that is why the infection rates in children are increasing.

Researchers have long pondered why children’s immune systems reduce the likelihood of infection and developing serious illnesses when exposed to the COVID virus. Some evidence suggests that children are more dependent on interferon for their immune response than adults. So while the new variants like Alpha are 50 to 70% more contagious for everyone, they could at least partially neutralize infection resistance in children.

“We have it on the radar that we could see spikes in the fall,” if people don’t get vaccinated, Linn said.

Comments are closed.