After Pfizer recorded positive results for a vaccine study among young people, experts in Michigan are hopeful vaccinating adolescents against COVID-19 may be a critical step towards herd immunity.
Hopeful news, considering the state has recently seen a surge in cases among residents 19 and younger.
But that’s not all; Michigan currently leads the country in COVID-19 infection rates and also has the second-most cases of the B.1.1.7. variant in the nation, with more than 1,200 known cases as of Thursday.
Cases among people 19 and younger jumped from 1,526 on Feb. 20 to 6,783 on March 27. Michiganders 10 to 19-years-old make up nearly 16 percent of the state’s cases, up from 8.5 percent before January, according to state data.
Though the disease affects older adults much more intensely, the coronavirus can cause life-threatening symptoms even among the young and healthy. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, affected 95 Michigan children with COVID-19 infections, state data shows. The CDC says at least 33 children died nationally from MIS-C.
Dr. Arnold Monto, an infectious disease expert at the University of Michigan and national authority on the virus, told Bridge Magazine this week that kids tend to flub restrictions or are otherwise too tired to follow them.
“(Children) don’t tend to get terribly sick, but the infection rates are going up in this population,” Monto said, adding that outbreaks among children are occurring frequently before and after school and sport practice, and that “people are very tired of behaving responsibly.”
Pfizer announced Wednesday that early research results show its vaccine to be 100 percent effective in children as young as 12. In the trial of 2,260 children 12 to 15-years-old, none of the 1,131 vaccinated children developed disease, while 18 children in the placebo group of 1,129 children tested positive.
A vaccine for children will mean a safer return to school.
Bridge Magazine also reported an Ingham County Health Department health officer as saying that vaccinated children will likely keep school disruptions to a minimum. In the case of a school outbreak, vaccinated children would not likely have to be quarantined if they were in close contact with an infected person.
Thus far, Michigan has set a goal of vaccinating at least 70 percent of people 16 and older, even as it’s not precisely clear what amount will bring herd immunity. The state has not yet announced whether that goal will be adjusted as vaccines for children and adolescents become available.