MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The increasing number of COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant is causing growing concern for children who are not yet eligible for a vaccine.
The Delta variant is more contagious than other forms of the virus, according to the CDC and while most children don't get extremely ill, some do become hospitalized, suffer long-term consequences and even death.
Children can also spread the virus to others, contributing to the increasing community transmission.
So, when can children get the vaccine and should they?
Infectious Disease Specialist at Florida International University Dr. Mary Jo Trepka spoke to CBS4's Eliott Rodriguez and Lauren Pastrana on CBS4 News at 7pm on Monday and has a few recommendations for concerned parents.
"First of all, I think what parents need to realize is that children are at risk of COVID-19, serious COVID-19, just this last week, we've had 200 children in the state that have been admitted to the hospital. So, children who are 12 and older are eligible to get the COVID vaccine," Dr. Trepka explained. "However, they need to get two doses to be completely protected. And it takes another two weeks after the second dose before they're fully vaccinated. So, parents need to get their children vaccinated now. School starts just in a couple of weeks. If your child was vaccinated with the first dose, at least three weeks ago, they need to get the second dose. Now, if they were vaccinated, many, many weeks ago, they can still get the second dose. And it's really important to get both doses with this delta variant to get the best protection."
What about the children 12 and under who are too young to get the vaccine right now?
"Yeah, well, the vaccine has not been authorized yet. For those age groups, we hope in the fall, maybe the latest in the winter, until that time, parents are really going to have to work hard to protect their children. I recommend that parents think about keeping their children away from crowded indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings too and they should definitely be wearing masks. And we should be careful about washing their hands," she explained.
What about children who already have had COVID? Should they get the vaccine if they're eligible?
"Right children as well as adults who've had COVID 19 before as an illness can get infected again," said Dr. Trepka. "Again, we've seen that over and over again, the protection that you get from a natural infection does not seem to be very good or very long lasting, and the vaccine provides a real strong boost to that protection. So, it's recommended that even if you've had COVID-19 before, whether you're adult or your child, that you get vaccinated, so that you get good protection, especially against the Delta variant."
What kind of masks should parents get their children to make sure they are as safe as possible?
"The best mask is the mask that fits well and that is comfortable. So, a mask that slides down the nose or has a lot of gaps doesn't do much good at all," she said. "I really recommend that parents spend time looking for masks that fit their children well and that are comfortable for children. If you're getting cloth masks, it's best to have a tightly woven fabric like cotton, and have multiple layers that will help, but again, the important thing is that the mask fits snugly and covers the mouth and the nose."
She also said its important children practice putting the mask on and taking it off safely.
What about masks with valves?
"It's not good to have a valve on a mask. The reason is, is that you end up exposing the other people when you exhale, so no valves, just a snug fitting mask and have the children practice because they can end up contaminating their hands when they take off the mask. So, teach them to wash their hands use the hand sanitizer after they take off the mask."
Since Gov. Ron DeSantis banned mask mandates in Florida school districts, what do you do if other children aren't wearing masks in school?
Dr. Trepka again says this round of COVID cases is a new chapter in the pandemic due to the Delta variant which is "highly, highly contagious" and she would tell parents they need to "talk with their children about wearing their masks, teach them how to do it appropriately, have them practice and then as school starts, talk with them every day on how things are going and find out any problems that the children may be having."
She added the "safest situation is when everybody is wearing a mask, if some children are not wearing a mask that increases the risk for everybody."
for more features.