RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — New COVID-19 cases among children are ticking up yet again even as more than 100,000 kids between 5 and 11 in North Carolina have already gotten their first dose of the vaccine.
And this is the week when the first few who got their first shot earlier this month will start getting their second doses.
So when could all those shots add up to a drop in cases?
One expert says it’s more complicated than it might appear — and that a question just as appropriate as “When?” is “Where?”
It took a while from the time adults became eligible for the shots earlier in the rollout, and when the spots where those adults live saw fewer cases.
The same thing should happen among the kids — but they’re not to that point just yet.
“I think it depend on your individual community and your level of vaccination,” said Dr. Michael Smith, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Duke University’s medical school.
For an individual, protection starts a few days after the first shot and reaches its optimum level two weeks after the final dose.
But it’s not as cut and dried in a group dynamic where each person’s level of protection depends at least partly on the other people.
“So what I think you’ll you’ll see is, areas where there’s good vaccination, those rates in kids are going to start to go down, or at least plateaus compared to the rest of the country,” Smith said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics earlier this week said new cases among kids are up 32 percent in the past two weeks.
In North Carolina, the increase is smaller but still evident at about 15 percent, according to a CBS 17 News analysis of state Department of Health and Human Services data. Children continue to make up about a quarter of new cases every week.
“It’s not surprising to me that as COVID kind of continues, or COVID kind of creeps back, that children, just because they haven’t had as much opportunity to be vaccinated” are seeing an increase, Smith said.
“It’s literally a snapshot of the community,” he added. “It’s kids aren’t vaccinated, plus some of the adults aren’t vaccinated. That’s really the recipe for continuing spread of COVID.”
But the kids are making progress in the vaccine push, and Smith calls it a good start.
Among the roughly 900,000 North Carolina kids who make up that youngest group that’s vaccine-eligible, about 1 in 8 have gotten their first shot.
“We’re right now in the first couple of weeks, we’re still trying to accommodate all the people who really want their kids vaccinated,” Smith said.
Three in 10 parents responding to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll say they will get their child vaccinated “right away” while another 3 in 10 said they definitely would not get the vaccine.
Smith pointed to perhaps the strongest predictor of whether a child will get the shot.
“The biggest association between, ‘Yes, I want to vaccinate my child’ is, ‘Yes, I was vaccinated.’” Smith said. “And the same thing is true on the other side. Parents who are not vaccinated themselves are not likely to vaccinate their children.”
CBS 17’s Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 figures since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state, and local sources to deliver a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation looks like now and what it could look like in the future.