COVID-19 Updates: Physician Advises that Children Mask, CDC Pleas for More Vaccinated Teens, New Data Claims mRNA Vaccines 91% Effective

School nurse administering a vaccine to a masked student; vaccinated teens in classroom

At least 173 million cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been diagnosed worldwide as of Monday evening, June 7, 2021, including at least 3.73 million deaths. Healthcare officials in the United States have reported at least 33.4 million positive COVID-19 cases and at least 597,000 deaths. Source: Johns Hopkins University & Medicine

At least 2.12 billion individual doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered worldwide as of Monday evening, including at least 302 million in the United States. Source: GitHub

Physician advises that children mask, could be significant spreaders

Recent studies have found that children infected with COVID-19 had as much, or more, coronavirus in their upper respiratory tracts as infected adults, according to Harvard Health Publishing. The amount of viral load was not correlated with the severity of their symptoms. More virus did not mean more severe symptoms, and most children who become infected with the virus have no symptoms, or they have milder symptoms such as low-grade fever, fatigue, and cough. Early studies suggested that children do not contribute much to the spread of coronavirus, but more recent studies are raising concerns about the capabilities of children spreading the infection.

While finding high amounts of viral genetic material does not prove that children are infectious, the presence of high viral loads in infected children increases the concern that children, even those who are asymptomatic, could readily spread the infection to others, according to the report.

Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, recently said children should be wearing masks. According to a report by Yahoo Finance Live, Davis believes children should especially be masking indoors. When it comes to schooling, Davis advises parents to feel comfortable sending children back to school if the incidence rate in their region is not more than 5% and if adequate ventilation and sterilization protocols have been ensured by the facility.

CDC pleas for more vaccinated teens

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging healthcare providers to do their part in helping to encourage parents and caregivers to promote the vaccination of more eligible teens in the United States.

The guidance stems from a recent study that reviewed troubling trends of hospitalizations among adolescents that showed nearly one-third of teenagers hospitalized with COVID-19 during a surge of cases earlier this year required intensive care while 5% required mechanical ventilation.

The CDC also stresses that hospitalization rates of teenagers diagnosed with COVID-19 rose in March and April this year. COVID-19 adolescent hospitalization rates peaked at 2.1 per 100,000 in early January 2021, declined to 0.6 in mid-March, and rose to 1.3 in April. The recent increased hospitalization rates in spring 2021 and potential for severe disease reinforce the importance of continued COVID-19 prevention measures, including vaccination and correct and consistent mask wearing among persons not fully vaccinated or when required, according to the CDC.

WHO to address proof of vaccine recordkeeping

Officials with the World Health Organization (WHO) have been advised to update their interim position on considerations regarding requirements for proof of COVID-19 vaccination and to produce interim guidance and tools related to standardization of paper and digital documentation of COVID-19 travel-related measures.

According to a statement recently released by the WHO, the Smart Vaccination Certificate Secretariat has expanded the scope of an initiative to develop guidance that includes testing and recovery status. The Smart Vaccination Certificate specification will be renamed as the “Digital Documentation of COVID-19 Certificates (DDCC)” specification and the resulting guidance will be published in a series of three documents that will share guidance on how to digitally document vaccination status, test results, and recovery status, according to WHO officials. These guidance documents will include components such as minimum datasets, expected functionality of digital systems, and preferred terminology code systems. The DDCC specifications will include an implementation guide, including example software implementations.

WHO officials said they understand the importance of the need to digitize paper-based documentation over time and have decided to take a longer-term view in this respect to examine the different technical possibilities.

New CDC data claims mRNA vaccines 91% effective

Among fully vaccinated people, mRNA COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of infection by 91%, according to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These findings add to a growing body of real-world evidence of vaccine effectiveness and are among the first to show that mRNA vaccination benefits people who get COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated or partially vaccinated, CDC officials said.

“Findings from the extended timeframe of this study add to accumulating evidence that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are effective and should prevent most infections—but that fully vaccinated people who still get COVID-19 are likely to have milder, shorter illness and appear to be less likely to spread the virus to others,” said Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, CDC director, in a prepared statement.

The findings come from four weeks of additional data collected in the CDC’s HEROES-RECOVER study of healthcare workers, first responders, frontline workers, and other essential workers—groups that are more likely to be exposed to the virus. Preliminary results from this study were first announced in March 2021.

In the new analysis, 3,975 participants completed weekly testing for 17 consecutive weeks (from Dec. 13, 2020, to April 10, 2021) in eight locations throughout the United States. Participants self-collected nasal swabs that were laboratory tested. Specimens were further tested in positive tests to determine the amount of detectable virus in the nose and the number of days that participants tested positive. Participants were followed over time and the data were analyzed according to vaccination status. To evaluate vaccine benefits, study investigators accounted for the circulation of virus in the area and how consistently participants used personal protective equipment (PPE) at work and in the community. Once fully vaccinated, participants’ risk of infection was reduced by 91%. After partial vaccination, participants’ risk of infection was reduced by 81%. These estimates included symptomatic and asymptomatic infections.

To determine whether COVID-19 illness was milder, study participants who became infected were combined into one group and compared to unvaccinated, infected participants. Several findings indicated that those who became infected after being fully or partially vaccinated were more likely to have milder, shorter illness compared to those who were unvaccinated. Fully or partially vaccinated people who developed COVID-19 spent an average of six fewer days sick and two fewer days sick in bed. They also had about a 60% lower risk of developing symptoms, such as fever or chills, compared to those who were unvaccinated, the CDC reports. Some study participants did not develop symptoms.

Other study findings suggest that fully or partially vaccinated people who got COVID-19 might be less likely to spread the virus to others and people who were partially or fully vaccinated were 66% less likely to test positive for infection for more than one week compared to those who were unvaccinated.

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