Every case of the coronavirus — whether in an adult or a child and whether it is symptomatic or not — gives the virus another opportunity to mutate.
“David O’Connor, a virology expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
, said he likens infections to “lottery tickets that we’re giving the virus.” The jackpot? A variant even more dangerous than the contagious delta currently circulating,” Laura Ungar reports
for The Associated Press
The fewer people who are infected, the fewer “lottery tickets” the virus has, “and the better off we’re all going to be in terms of generating the variants,” he told Ungar, who writes that variants “are even more likely to emerge in people with weakened immune systems who harbor the virus for a long time.”
And that’s one more reason why it’s so important for all eligible people to get the Covid-19 vaccine, because in doing so it limits the opportunity for spread, especially children who often have the virus, but don’t have any symptoms.
“Vaccinating kids also means reducing silent spread, since most have no or mild symptoms when they contract the virus,” Ungar writes. “When the virus spreads unseen, scientists say, it also goes unabated. And as more people contract it, the odds of new variants rise.”
Cadell Walker of Louisville told Ungar that she rushed to get her 9-year-old daughter Solome vaccinated to not only protect her from the virus, but to also keep it from spreading and mutating into more dangerous variants.
“The only way to really beat Covid is for all of us collectively to work together for the greater good,” Walker, told Ungar.
Ungar reports that while researchers disagree on how much kids have influenced the course of the pandemic, one estimate from the Covid-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, a collection of university and medical research organizations that consolidates models of how the pandemic may unfold, shows that “for this November through March 12, 2022, vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds would avert about 430,000 Covid cases in the overall U.S. population if no new variant arose.” If a variant 50% more transmissible than Delta showed up in late fall, 860,000 cases would be averted, which would be “a big impact,” project co-leader Katriona Shea of Pennsylvania State University told Ungar.
Another big unknown is that dangerous variants may arise in largely unvaccinated parts of the world and make their way to the U.S. That concern is showing itself in real-time as the U.S. and several other nations restrict travel to and from southern Africa, where the new Omicron variant emerged. The World Health Organization says it is “a variant of concern.”
“It’s going to buy us some time,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said of the travel ban. “It’s not going to be possible to keep this infection out of the country. The question is: Can you slow it down?”