Children may become an important factor in helping Texas and the U.S. reach COVID-19 herd immunity, according to preliminary results of an ongoing statewide study.
The research looks at the presence of antibodies for COVID-19 in people across Texas. Preliminary results from thousands of blood samples and patient surveys say between 14 and 24% of Texans have COVID antibodies due to past infection.
What’s more, study contributor Sarah Messiah, a professor of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health in Dallas, said about 30% of children ages 5 to 19 sampled in the study had antibodies.
“Children actually have a higher seroprevalence than adults do,” she said, noting that over half of children with antibodies exhibited no symptoms of the disease.
A large portion of children with antibodies in the general population could help the state and country reach “herd immunity.” That comes when enough people have had the disease or been vaccinated that the spread of the virus drops.
“Children have not been a part of this conversation,” Messiah said. “Yet think about the households that have children in them.”
Much of the discussion around herd immunity has focused on adults. Experts have said herd immunity could require up to 80% immunity in the population.
On a call with reporters last week, the Department of State Health Services said it did not have a “definitive answer” as to when Texas would reach herd immunity.
“The science is still ongoing about [herd immunity],” said Imelda Garcia, DSHS associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services. “Herd immunity at the state level is one thing. Herd immunity within your community and where you’re navigating is another piece.”
The antibody study, called Texas CARES, is a partnership between UT Health and the Texas Department of State Health Services. Research will continue into the summer.
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