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Your questions about COVID and kids, answered

A COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 may be approved by the end of October.
A COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 may be approved by the end of October.

More than a year and a half into the coronavirus pandemic, we have more tools than ever to fight COVID-19, like vaccines and a better understanding of how the virus spreads. But there is still a lot of the virus in our communities, and New Hampshire continues to see steady rates of infection and hospitalization. Plus, there's still a large population that can't get vaccinated: kids.

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All Things Considered host Peter Biello spoke with Dr. Sharon Vuppula, a pediatric hospitalist and infectious disease specialist at St. Joseph Hospital, about the current state of the pandemic in New Hampshire and how it's impacting kids.

Top five takeaways:

Why are we seeing more cases among children in New Hampshire?

Several reasons. There are high vaccination rates among older populations, so cases aren't occurring in older adults as much as they were before vaccines were widely available.

The highly transmissible delta variant is also playing a part. It's far more contagious than earlier strains of the virus and therefore can be passed more easily, especially among unvaccinated individuals which, at this point, are all children under the age of 12.

Children are also largely back to in-person learning. Cases among children were low when they were learning remotely, but it's easier for COVID-19 to spread in a classroom setting.

Why are case numbers remaining steady in New Hampshire as they slow down around the rest of the country?

The delta variant is partially to blame. The variant reached New Hampshire later than it did other states, like those in the Midwest and the South, so New Hampshire is seeing a later peak and later downturn in cases than other states that already saw spikes due to delta.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may be approved for use in children ages 5 to 11 by Halloween. Is the smaller dose intended for children still as effective as the adult dose?

Yes. The 10 microgram dose intended for children has been shown to be effective and has been studied thoroughly. Dr. Vuppula says parents who may have a child on the brink of turning 12 (at which point they're eligible for the adult dose) should get the vaccine as soon as it's available, even if that is the kid's dose. It's safe and effective.

When can we lift mask mandates in schools?

When vaccination rates are high enough. Dr. Vuppula says because of how contagious the delta variant is, an optimal vaccination rate would be about 90%.

How do we combat misinformation?

One-on-one dialogues with a medical professional are the best way to get the facts. Dr. Vuppula cautions Granite Staters against getting information about COVID-19 from social media or news outlets that aren't vetting information. Doctors are trained and knowledgeable and are the best source of information about vaccines and COVID-19.

Julia Furukawa is the host of All Things Considered at NHPR. She joined the NHPR team in 2021 as a fellow producing ATC after working as a reporter and editor for The Paris News in Texas and a freelancer for KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.
Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.
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