COVID-19 cases in children have risen substantially as families across the nation begin a new school year and launch into extracurricular activities.

Two young siblings sitting together About 4.5 million children have now been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, accounting for approximately 25% of all cases, and more than 400 children have died from COVID-19 infection.

Despite the increased number of cases, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) experts say children are still less likely to be severely infected. 

“This is a numbers problem,” says Susan Coffin, MD, MPH, attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases. “The rise in the number of children being hospitalized is not a signal that the virus is becoming more serious for children; it’s simply a sign that more children are becoming infected.”  

Are young children less prone to infection with COVID-19?

Some scientists have suggested lower concentration of viral receptors might explain why young children tend to be less often infected with COVID-19. However, it’s not yet understood why one child might become infected and not another, or why some children experience severe infection or severe complications like  multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). For this reason, Dr. Coffin recommends taking all necessary precautions to keep your children safe, including mask use, excellent hand hygiene, physical distancing from those not in your household, and avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated spaces. For adults and children above 12, vaccination is critical. 

“Everyone benefits from vaccination — even people who have previously had COVID-19,” says Dr. Coffin.

Notes of hope

  1. All U.S. individuals ages 12 and up are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. 
  2. The vaccines are safe and more than 90% effective. 
  3. Vaccine trials are in progress for children under 12.

There is still much we are learning about the virus and variants, as well as the role of children in spreading and catching it. We have created a  COVID-19 vaccine section  on our website, which is updated regularly with the most current information to keep you and your family informed. 

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