The speed at which the Delta variant has established itself as a majority among the cases of Covid-19 detected in France illustrated how much its contagiousness was greater than that of previous strains of the coronavirus. Many parents are now worried about whether this superior diffusion capacity is accompanied by an increased danger for minors, the least vaccinated age group of the population.
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“In a context where the majority of adults are vaccinated, we predict that 46% of infections will concern this age group (0-17 years old), while they represent only 22% of the population ”, predicted at the end of June a study by the Pasteur Institute. On representation of young people who, if the epidemic continues to progress, could result in a greater number of hospital admissions.
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“It’s arithmetic: the more cases, the more hospitalization”, comments Professor Robert Cohen, president of the National Professional Council of Pediatrics, who however wants to be reassuring: “We have had few hospitalizations of children, and we cannot imagine being in a situation of being overwhelmed by serious cases. “
Few serious forms
In fact, so far,those under 18 have been largely spared from the pandemic. A study carried out after the start of the September 2020 school year showed that minors represented less than 2% of hospitalizations during this period. According to data from Public Health France, only 300 French adolescents have been in intensive care since the start of the crisis. Finally, the number of children and adolescents with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (PIMS) post-Covid does not exceed a few hundred.
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Could the Delta variant be a game-changer? Concern has been raised in recent days by the situation in the United States, where hospitalizations of children are on the rise, pushing the American health authorities to recommend the wearing of a mask from the age of 2 years. However, nothing seems to indicate with certainty that this variant is more dangerous than the previous strains.
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“We currently have no data in favor of a greater pathogenicity of the Delta variant in a younger population”, told The cross Public health France. The drop in the average age of people hospitalized due to Covid-19 would rather result from better vaccination coverage of the elderly.
Test and aerate
“We do not foresee an increase in the number of pediatric deaths, it is very clear that we would have already seen it otherwise”, adds Robert Cohen, who did not notice any notable evolution of the chronic forms nor of the nature or the frequency of the sequelae. “This variant does not lead to more serious clinical forms in young children, abounds Christèle Gras-Le Guen, president of the French Pediatric Society. We have of course heard the concerns of our American colleagues, but that does not correspond to what we experience on a daily basis. “
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However, French specialists call for the best possible preparation for the start of the new school year, the reopening of classes offering the virus the opportunity to circulate more easily than ever among minors. “We will have to test the children more than before, and strengthen the measures ofhygiene, stresses Robert Cohen. More than the mask, recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but which is very difficult to hold, the ventilation of the rooms will prove to be essential at the start of the school year. “