Nearly 40,000 kids have lost a parent to COVID-19, model shows

A new research model has estimated that nearly 40,000 children have lost at least one parent to COVID-19 as the nation sees an increase in the administering of vaccine doses and hospitalizations among young people.   

According to an analysis published last week by JAMA Pediatrics, researchers from Stony Brook University, the University of Western Ontario, Penn State University and the University of Southern California estimated that nearly 40,000 children aged 0 to 17 have lost one parent to COVID during the pandemic. 

‘The number of children experiencing a parent dying of COVID-19 is staggering, with an estimated 37,300 to 43,000 already affected,’ the research team, led by Rachel Kidman, of Stony Brook University, wrote. 

‘Black children are disproportionately affected, comprising only 14% of children in the US but 20% of those losing a parent to Covid-19,’ researchers added. 

A 'staggering' number of children (file image) in the US have lost at least one parent to COVID-19, a new model has estimated

A ‘staggering’ number of children (file image) in the US have lost at least one parent to COVID-19, a new model has estimated

According to researchers, the model suggests that each COVID-19 death leaves 0.078 children between the ages of 0 and 17 without at least one parent

According to researchers, the model suggests that each COVID-19 death leaves 0.078 children between the ages of 0 and 17 without at least one parent

According to researchers, the model suggests that each COVID-19 death leaves 0.078 children between the ages of 0 and 17 without at least one parent. 

That number represents a 17.5 per cent to 20.2 per cent increase in parental bereavement due to the virus. 

‘As of February 2021, 37 300 children aged 0 to 17 years had lost at least 1 parent due to COVID-19, three-quarters of whom were adolescents,’ the research says. 

‘Of these, 20,600 were non-Hispanic White children and 7,600 were non-Hispanic Black children. When we rely on excess deaths, we estimate that 43,000 children have lost a parent.’

Researchers also noted that ‘a natural herd immunity strategy that results in 1.5 million deaths demonstrates the potential effect of inaction: 116,900 parentally bereaved children’.

For comparison, the attacks on September 11, 2001, left 3,000 children without a parent.

‘Sweeping national reforms are needed to address the health, educational, and economic fallout affecting children,’ the authors of the research wrote. 

‘Parentally bereaved children will also need targeted support to help with grief, particularly during this period of heightened social isolation. 

‘The establishment of a national child bereavement cohort could identify children who have lost parents, monitor them for early identification of emerging challenges.’ 

The researchers noted that the estimates rely on demographic modeling, not survey or administrative data, and do not include bereavement of nonparental primary caregivers. 

Meanwhile, Dr Cyrus Shahpar, the COVID-19 data director for the White House COVID, shared on Twitter that the US has administered more than 4.6 million vaccine doses. 

‘Amazing Saturday! +4.63M doses administered over total yesterday, a new record! More than 500K higher than old record last Saturday. Incredible number of doses administered,’ Shahpar wrote. 

While infections have been going up, the number of deaths has been falling thanks to increased vaccination of 'vulnerable' populations, according to health officials

While infections have been going up, the number of deaths has been falling thanks to increased vaccination of ‘vulnerable’ populations, according to health officials  

And while that is good news, the US is still seeing troubling numbers in hospitalizations among young people and an upward climb in COVID-19 cases. 

During a White House COVID-19 briefing on Friday, CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky, said: ‘On the one hand, we have so much reason for optimism and hope, and more Americans are being vaccinated.

‘On the other hand, cases and emergency room visits are up,’ she added, pointing to younger adults who have not been vaccinated. 

According to Walensky, young people ages 18 to 64 have seen increasing numbers of hospital visits, noting that the upper Midwest is seeing these trends ‘magnified’.

‘CDC is working closely with public health officials in this region to understand what is driving these cases and how we can intervene,’ she said. 

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech SE on Friday asked US regulators to allow the emergency use of their vaccine in adolescents aged 12 to 15.

The vaccine is currently authorized for emergency use in the US for people aged 16 and up. The companies said on Friday that they requested an expansion of the authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration to include the younger age group.

In March, the drugmakers said the vaccine was found to be safe, effective and produced robust antibody responses in 12- to 15-year olds in a clinical trial.

It is unclear how long the regulator will take to review the data from the trial, although Walensky said Thursday she expects the vaccine to be authorized for 12- to 15-year-olds by mid-May.

Inoculating children and young people is considered a critical step toward reaching herd immunity and taming the pandemic, according to many experts.

Last week, officials warned that nearly half of the new US coronavirus infections were coming from five states: New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Particularly, Michigan health officials expressed concern on Wednesday over rising coronavirus cases despite a stepped-up vaccination campaign.

Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, warned on Twitter of a ‘significant increase’ in cases.

‘Our hospitalizations are going up as well. Michiganders need to double down and take the steps to help stop the spread of this virus,’ she said.

Michigan is seeing more COVID infections by population than any other US state and some experts have attributed the rise to spring vacations.

Meanwhile, Dr Cyrus Shahpar, the COVID-19 data director for the White House COVID, shared on Twitter that the US has administered more than 4.6 million vaccine doses. People are seen wearing masks in New York on Saturday

Meanwhile, Dr Cyrus Shahpar, the COVID-19 data director for the White House COVID, shared on Twitter that the US has administered more than 4.6 million vaccine doses. People are seen wearing masks in New York on Saturday 

 

‘We have CDC teams on the ground working to assess outbreaks in correctional facilities,’ Walensky said. ‘We’re working to facilitate increased testing that is happening on the ground in the context of youth sports.’

Walensky said the CDC was also seeking to ‘understand what is happening’ with COVID-19 variants.

The number of new cases has begun to rise again in the US and there have been around 63,000 new cases a day on average during the last week.

While infections have been going up, the number of deaths has been falling thanks to increased vaccination of ‘vulnerable’ populations, Walensky said.

Health officials also said last week that the highly contagious variant of COVID-19 first discovered in the United Kingdom has become the most common strain of the virus in the US.

The strain, known as B.1.1.7, was identified in Britain last fall and has since been detected in 52 jurisdictions in the US, Walensky said. 

US public health officials have urged Americans to get vaccinated as soon as possible in part to prevent new variants of the novel coronavirus from spreading.

The US has also detected cases of a variant first discovered in South Africa that is thought to be resistant to some COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. That strain has been found in 36 US jurisdictions, according to federal data.

Vaccine supply has increased significantly in the United States in recent weeks as Johnson & Johnson has begun making millions of doses of its recently authorized shots. 

Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have also recently boosted their vaccine production capacity.

President Joe Biden has doubled his goal for shots administered in his first 100 days in office from 100 million to 200 million and urged states to begin giving shots to all adults by mid-April. 

Walensky said that the CDC has identified a number of COVID-19 outbreaks tied to youth sporting events and that communities experiencing high case counts should avoid holding such events. Testing should also happen twice a week, she said.

White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt also told reporters that the US government is expanding its community health center program, which it set up in recent weeks to help get vaccines into underserved communities.

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