Watch CBS News

CDC Estimates 75% Of Children In U.S. Have Had COVID

BOSTON (CBS) - New CDC research released Tuesday shows three out of every four American kids has been infected with COVID-19. This study of 200,000 Americans looked at the antibodies children make when they've had coronavirus. These antibodies look different than those created by the vaccine.

On one hand, this recent protection will likely mean fewer new cases in the next few months. But what does this widespread infection from the contagious omicron surge mean for our kids in the long-term? Experts say we simply don't know yet.

"There are some other respiratory illnesses like RSV which do increase risk of having reactive airway diseases, or a precursor to asthma later on in life. We also know those viruses act in slightly different ways so may not be exactly the same," explained Dr. Brian Chow, the attending physician for Tufts Medical Center Infectious Disease.

Dr. Chow pointed out that antibodies generated by natural infection tend to go away faster - which means vaccines and boosters remain an essential tool.

"It's the same advice we're giving to adults and teenagers who have already been infected: the vaccine enhances your immunity and increases ability to fight off infection," he said.

Dr. Paul Sax, the clinical director of the infectious disease clinic at Brigham and Women's Hospital, is hopeful that because kids are growing up with the virus, it may end up being similar to a cold in the future.

"What I'm hopeful is that kids who grow up in the COVID-19 era are going to generate lifelong immunity to severe consequences from the virus," Dr. Sax said. "One of the theories from the start, why COVID-19 was more severe in adults than children, was that we don't have as adaptable immune system. And so if kids are growing up with this virus, and this virus becomes widely endemic, it will maybe never be more than a cold to them."

Dr. Richard Malley, Senior Physician of Pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Boston Children's Hospital, views the 75 percent estimate as evidence that the virus is increasingly difficult to avoid with each emerging variant.

"It's fair to say, and it's not a surprise to say, that if you have 75 percent of the pediatric population demonstrating some evidence of having had this virus, I think over time that number will get very close to 100 percent. I don't think think that is a risky prediction. I think there is a very good chance that most of us on this planet will experience [COVID-19] at some point," Dr. Malley said.

This CDC report came out the same day Pfizer sought permission to offer a booster dose to kids ages 5 to 11. Parents of toddlers are still waiting for an authorized vaccine.

Experts say it's still reasonable for parents of unvaccinated young children to mask and of course use best practice protective measures like frequent hand washing.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.