What You Need to Know About Kids and the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 Variant

Mother and son at the pediatrician's office

Key Takeaways

  • The British B.1.1.7. Covid variant has been spreading rapidly among children.
  • This strain is currently the most prominent in the US since first discovered in the UK in December 2020.
  • Experts are concerned about whether or not the vaccine can prevent transmission of the mutated virus.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 is mutating. Five new strains are currently present in the US, and experts are concerned about transmission. Jessica Steier, DrPH, PMP, explains, “The B.1.1.7 variant has been detected in all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico, and it is estimated to be 50 to 100% more transmissible than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.” She also says that it leads to more severe illness, and potentially death. 

The spread seems to be led by children, with states such as Minnesota seeing links between activities like sporting events and outbreaks. “Schools and affiliated settings are the main sources of new clusters and outbreaks,” Steier cautions. 

A recent study also found a 64% increased risk of death from the B.1.1.7. variant, compared to other circulating mutations. This information is worrisome, but how concerned do we need to be, really?

Cases Are Usually Mild

The good news is that the variant does not cause children to become seriously ill. Chad Sanborn, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at KIDZ Medical Services, explains, “Most children, even if infected with these variants, will still have minimal symptoms compared to adults who get infected.”

Chad Sanborn, MD

I wouldn’t be frightened of the variants, but I would have a healthy respect for them and remember that for both adults and kids the pandemic is not yet ‘over.'

— Chad Sanborn, MD

The study did find more of an increased risk in older men. Luckily, FDA-authorized vaccines appear to be effective against this variant.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are conducting trials which hope to shed light on how well they protect against the new virus strains. “While there are fewer data available for the J&J vaccine, those trials were conducted later when variants were already circulating,” Steier says.

How to Protect Yourself Against This Strain 

Steier explains that the risk could be mitigated with caution being taken around children’s activities. “Emphasizing universal mask-wearing, increasing ventilation, moving activities and instruction outdoors whenever possible, and steering clear of events that would require groups of people to gather and cluster is recommended.”

Jessica Steier, Public Health Scientist

Since children under the age of 16 cannot yet be vaccinated, the spread of B.1.1.7 underscores the importance of other mitigation measures such as mask-wearing and double masking.

— Jessica Steier, Public Health Scientist

Despite the spread, Steier does not feel that schools should necessarily be closed.  She encourages those who are eligible to be vaccinated to do so. “Every single time the virus is transmitted from one person to another, it has the opportunity to mutate. By getting vaccinated, parents are protecting themselves and their children from COVID-19.” 

While the efficacy of vaccination is still being studied, Sanborn explains that “no vaccine gives 100% protection, but it's very unlikely that you will become infected, and even less likely to become sick from a variant if fully vaccinated.

What This Means For You

It is important for you and your family to be aware of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, but it shouldn't cause any major alarm. Just continue practicing all recommended COVID-19 safety measures and make sure your kids are following protocol as well.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

2 Sources
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  1. Challen R, Brooks-Pollock E, Read JM, Dyson L, Tsaneva-Atanasova K, Danon L. Risk of mortality in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern 202012/1: matched cohort study. BMJ. 2021;372:n579, doi:10.1136/bmj.n579 

  2. Pitts J. Pfizer and BioNTech initiate a study as part of broad development plan to evaluate COVID-19 booster and new vaccine variants. Business Wire.