A STUDY PUBLISHED by the American Academy of Pediatrics in the journal Pediatrics Thursday quantifies yet another tragic outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic: the orphanage.
The to study used modeling to estimate that from April 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, more than 120,000 children under the age of 18 in the United States lost their custodial parent or grandparent as a result of COVID-related death . Another 22,000 have lost a “secondary caregiver”, such as a grandparent who housed the family.
Of the children who lost a caregiver to COVID, 65% were racial and ethnic minorities – even though minorities make up only 39% of the population. Researchers say this is symptomatic of the wider inequities that have made black and Latino individuals more likely to contract COVID.
Susan Hillis, lead author of the study, said in a Press release According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the COVID-linked orphanage is “a hidden global pandemic that has unfortunately not spared the United States.” “All of us – especially our children – will feel the serious immediate and long-term impact of this problem for generations to come,” Hillis said, adding that dealing with this loss must be a top priority in the response to COVID.
The study puts in harsh terms what has been evident throughout the pandemic. Children may not get sick from COVID with the same severity as adults (although a small number do get seriously ill), but they feel the collateral consequences.
Children have faced mental health crises in unprecedented numbers, due to stress, isolation and lack of educational and social support. Commonwealth reported that due to the pressures on the health care system, many of these children cannot get timely treatment.
Students lost a year of education due to the difficulties of distance learning, and plunging MCAS scores this year illustrate how much ground many children need to catch up.
Even when vaccinated adults began to return to more normal lives, children under 12 were not eligible for vaccines, meaning families continued to face tough choices about the risks they want to take with their unvaccinated children.
There was potential good news on Thursday when Pfizer demand the United States Food and Drug Administration to approve its COVID vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11. Boston Globe reported that an expert panel will meet on Oct. 26 to review the request, and U.S. officials have said the shot could be available by Thanksgiving, if approved by the FDA and CDC.
Some have speculated that getting children vaccinated might be a key to end the pandemic, as this will increase the chances of achieving collective immunity, while limiting the spread of the virus among a population that is indoors with other people all day, every day. Some suggest that vaccines for children as well as the potential for a new pill awaiting regulatory approval to mitigate severe effects of COVID could be the key to a return to normalcy.
That said, there are questions about how many parents will immunize their children, especially since the virus tends to be less severe in children. A survey conducted in August by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that less than half of parents are likely to vaccinate their children against COVID-19. And if the Delta strain showed anything, it’s that predictions a vaccine-induced end of the pandemic may be premature. Experts now to say the virus is likely to be endemic – always with us in one form or another – and the question will become how best to live with it.
Like sobering up sto study on the orphanage reminds us, there are many children for whom the impact of COVID will never be completely over.