Education

When Vaccines Aren’t an Option: Life for Families With Children Under 12

“It doesn’t feel like there are any good options at this point,” said Adina Ellis, 45, who tossed and turned in bed for hours the night before school started this week in Washington, D.C., racked with indecision about whether to send her 6-year-old son, Cassius.

Ms. Ellis lost her father to Covid-19 last year and had been among a group of parents calling for the mayor to allow remote learning. But like some other large cities, Washington is requiring nearly all students to be in person this year.

On the first day of school, Ms. Ellis rose before dawn, sat on her front porch with her husband and made a “game-time decision,” she said, to drop her son off at school. Watching him walk up the steps, carrying a Hot Wheels backpack, some part of her became resigned to the possibility that he may get infected.

“That thought will haunt me for as long as he’s going to school unvaccinated,” she said.

The data on coronavirus cases in children is imperfect, but by most accounts, serious illness has been rare.

Throughout the pandemic, fewer than 2 in 100 Covid-19 cases in children have resulted in hospitalization, and fewer than 3 in 10,000 cases have resulted in death, according to state-level data analyzed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Because many asymptomatic cases in children may go undetected, the risk could be lower.

But the Delta variant has added a new wrinkle that is not yet fully understood.

More children are now getting seriously sick, as hospitals fill up with coronavirus patients, by and large unvaccinated. Delta is roughly twice as infectious as the original virus, leading to more overall infections, and researchers are seeking to understand whether it is also more severe. One recent study found that Delta is more likely to cause hospitalizations. Some children have also developed debilitating long-term cases of Covid, even after initially mild or asymptomatic infections.

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