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Taking care of children under 5 years of age during the recent Covid-19 outbreak

When she turned 47 on January 10, however, the festivities were virtually non-existent.

There was good reason for the change in plans: The university professor in Patchogue, New York, has a 13-month-old daughter. Because there is no vaccine approved for such young babies, because cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 are rising sharply across the United States, and because experts once again advise people to avoid gathering in groups, Wiener-Bambara did not want to take any chances.

"It didn't feel much like a birthday," she said. "Since Christmas, my daughter Lily has not seen anyone except me and my husband, but most importantly, she does not get sick."

Wiener-Bambara are certainly not the only adults' plans to keep infants and toddlers safe right now. Across the country, parents, grandparents and even teenagers who share a household with children under the age of 5 find that they make similar sacrifices.

Like they have been doing for almost two years.

As we approach the third year of the coronavirus pandemic, there is still no approved vaccine to protect children under 5 years of age. This demographic is as vulnerable as it was when the pandemic started. This means that their parents and loved ones are just as worried as ever. It also means that the adults in these children's lives are angry, stressed and totally overwhelmed.

"So many parents were just starting to breathe a sigh of relief after their older children were eligible for vaccination," said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. "Instead, we are in the middle of a viral snowstorm with an extremely contagious variant, and it is one of the most dangerous times for young children in this pandemic."

Keeps watch

Wen not only thinks about the consequences for public health around Covid-19 and how it affects the mental health of parents with young children - she lives it every day.

Wen, a CNN Medical Analyst and author of "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health," has two children: a 4-year-old who first turns 5 in August, and a 21-month-old.

For these reasons, Wen said her family will continue to take precautions, such as wearing face masks in public, avoiding indoor environments where they and others are exposed, testing themselves and friends before intimate gatherings in private homes, and minimizing travel to cut down on the risk.

"Despite the precautions we are taking, it is still very possible that we could expose our children to Omicron," she said.
There is certainly cause for concern. Early data indicate that Omicron appears to cause less serious illness and lead to fewer hospitalizations, but its rapid spread indicates that it is much more contagious than other variants. The number of cases has increased over the past few weeks to an average of over 754,000 new infections a day, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
Omicron represented 95% of all U.S. Covid cases in the week ending Jan. 1, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The spike is potentially bad news for children, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to President Biden and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"The sheer amount of infections due to its deep transmissibility will mean that many more children will be infected," Fauci said last week at a White House briefing.

In the week ending Jan. 6, more than 580,000 children Covid-19 cases were reported nationwide, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association. That figure is a 78% increase over the 325,000 added cases reported in the week ending December 30, according to the report.
Help for children under 5 does not seem to be coming in the near future. Pfizer has been working on a vaccine for children ages 2 to 4, but company officials announced last month that two doses of a 3-microgram shot did not provide as much protection as they had hoped. (In contrast, the adult shots are 30 micrograms apiece.) The study has been updated to give all participants under the age of 5 a third dose, and data are expected around late March or early April, a business researcher told U.S. officials in mid-December.

Overwhelming, overwhelmed

This news has ranked parents of the children who would qualify for the under-5 vaccine. These parents say they are tired and stressed. Since some of them have never stopped social distancing, they are also getting a little crazy.

Tony and Maggie Christopher and their children Micah (3 years) and Kamden (6 years).

Tag Maggie Christopher. The 35-year-old resident of Stow, Ohio, has two children - a 6-year-old boy who is fully vaccinated and a 3-year-old who is not. Her older son was exposed to Covid-19 the day he got his second shot, and Christopher and her husband bent over backwards to keep their children separate and make sure the boys did not cross their paths for five days at home.

"We came up with a changing shower program. We wore masks inside," Christopher recalled. "After two years of fear of the unknown, it was overwhelming to have to deal with it for five days."

Fortunately, she said, none of the boys tested positive.

Mary Anne Cooper, who lives in Oregon, was not so lucky. After fending off Covid-19 for more than two years, she contracted the virus last week and immediately began isolating herself in her bedroom so as not to infect her 21-month-old son. Cooper described the symptoms as a "bad flu," noting that she had lost her voice as a result.

In an interview over a messaging app, Cooper said the whole experience of raising a young child through the pandemic has tested her patience as a parent and as a person.

"We are the lucky ones - we both had job stability, and although my husband was never able to walk the distance, we both had enough work flexibility to cope with increased sick days, daycare closures, our first quarantine and everything that came with it. the pandemic, "she said. "It has also taken so much from us - we had our son in April 2020 and have only known parenthood in the pandemic. Our families did not manage to meet him immediately, it was risky to hire help, and to send our son into day care borne its own risk. "

She added: "We are grateful that we had the resources to manage this, but it has still been challenging."

In Coldwater, Ontario, Kaidy Mae Newman and her partner have not come out much since the pandemic started, mainly because their 4-year-old son is unvaccinated and they do not want to take the risk.

Newman said there is no doubt that the boy's social skills have suffered as a result.

"We were excited for our son to start school in September and be able to make some friends, but six weeks into the school year, his teacher told us he had not yet communicated with any of his peers. "Newman remembered.

She added that during the Christmas holidays, it seemed to get better for the boy. He had two play dates in a park, and he welcomed a friend to a masked play date. Then came Omicron, and a return to distance learning. "He's right back to where we were in September now. He will not say a word in his online class," Newman said.

Reasons for hope

Despite the uncertainty, despite the victims, despite the difficulties, most parents of children under the age of 5 agree that there are reasons for hope.

First, young children are at "extremely low risk" for severe cases of Covid-19, according to Dr. Monica Gandhi, Professor of Medicine and Associate Head of the Department of HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine at UCSF / San Francisco General Hospital in California.

Less than 1.5% of all Covid-19 cases in children in the United States resulted in hospitalization of any kind, according to government data in the latest report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

Fauci, the country's best infectious disease doctor, added that there are ways to minimize the risk to children who are not yet eligible for vaccines: by surrounding children with vaccinated adults and by letting them wear face masks (preferably KN94 or KN95 masks) in the public and group settings.

Christopher, Ohio mother of two, sometimes said she allows herself to think about the future and daydream about normality for her younger son - if only then for a moment or two.

"The light at the end of the tunnel is definitely getting a little bigger and a little brighter, but it's not near as fast as we all hoped it would be," she said. "Once he's vaccinated, I hope we can find the right place for him to begin social interactions with other children his age."

Larkin O'Leary is just as optimistic.

O'Leary lives in Santa Rosa, California with her husband and two children - a 7-year-old son with Down syndrome and a 2-year-old daughter. While her son was among the first children to be vaccinated, her daughter still has not received a shot.

Her son tested positive for Covid-19 this week, but everyone else in the family has tested negative.

O'Leary said that while she recognizes how unfair it has been for her children to grow up in this time, she understands the precautions their family must take and has mostly embraced them. She said she would jump at the chance to get her daughter vaccinated, admitting she longs for the day when she and her family can see friends and family without fear of infection.

"Until then, we just have to be patient," she said. "The only way to get past this is to go through it."

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