Fauci’s encouragement to enjoy the scariest time of the year comes amid a decline in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, sparking hope that the summer surge fueled by the highly contagious delta variant of the virus is receding. At the same time, new studies on coronavirus vaccination for younger children are underscoring the push for these shots to become available for those younger than 12.
Fauci, who is the White House’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that data on coronavirus vaccination for children will be “coming before the FDA relatively soon.” If vaccination for this group is approved, he said, greater protection from the virus could be achieved for the overall population.
According to Pfizer-BioNTech, a lower dose of their product — one-third the amount given to adults and teens — is safe and creates a robust immune response in children as young as 5.
Coronavirus immunization has been authorized in the United States for 12-to-15 year-olds since May. The Food and Drug Administration will consider Pfizer’s request for emergency use authorization of its vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 in a meeting planned for this month. Data on children younger than 5 is expected by the end of the year, and Moderna is also conducting a trial with children as young as 6 months.
Though it is uncommon for the youngest to experience severe coronavirus symptoms, hundreds of children have died of covid-19, the disease the virus causes, during the pandemic. As of Wednesday, 181 children from infant to age 4 and 406 children ages 5 to 18 have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When it comes to coronavirus-related pediatric hospitalizations, the total numbers are unclear. Several states, including Arkansas, Florida, Nebraska and New York, do not provide a breakdown of their patients’ ages or have stopped reporting child hospitalizations. Texas gave age information for 3 percent of its cases. Other states, such as Hawaii, Missouri and West Virginia, have changed their definitions of what constitutes a pediatric case. With these limitations, the American Academy of Pediatrics found there have been 20,000 hospitalizations among 24 states and New York City.
New cases among children have remained “exceptionally high,” according to the latest report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. The organizations found that, for the seven-day period ending Sept. 30, children accounted for 26.7 percent of reported infections. Children are 22.2 percent of the country’s population. Between Sept. 16 and 30, there was a 7 percent increase in the number of pediatric covid-19 cases since the pandemic began.
As of Sept. 30, nearly 5.9 million children had been reported infected since the onset of the pandemic, representing 16.2 percent of all U.S. cases, the pediatric organizations reported. In September, 850,000 child infections were reported, with 17,5000 of them added in the last week of the month — a trend coinciding with back-to-school season.
About 95,000 new coronavirus cases are being reported in the United States daily, Fauci said Sunday — a precipitous drop from Jan. 8, the peak daily average of 259,616 reported cases. The “good news,” he said, is that hospitalizations have declined to about 7,400, from the average of 8,378 the week of Sept. 22-30. Deaths, too, are down, below 2,000 per day. But he cautioned against declaring a premature victory over covid-19 — which has killed at least 712,000 people in the United States — because rates have surged from low points in the past.
“If you look at the history of the surges and the diminution in cases over a period of time, they can bounce back,” Fauci said. “So we don’t want to always be on our edge that it’s going to happen because it won’t if we do what we should be doing, namely getting more people vaccinated.”
For Fauci, the upcoming celebrations — particularly the prospect of trick-or-treating — are an opportunity to “reflect on why it’s important to get vaccinated.” The shots, he said, would add an extra degree of protection to a generally safe outdoor activity.
“But go out there and enjoy Halloween, as well as the other holidays that will be coming up,” he added.