In a new study, researchers found that while children are less susceptible to illness with the new coronavirus, they are nearly 60% more likely than adults over 60 to infect other family members when they are sick.
The findings show the need to conduct COVID-19 vaccine safety and efficacy studies in children.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Florida.
In the study, the team analyzed data from more than 27,000 households in Wuhan, China, that had confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Previous research found that children shed SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, at similar rates as adults.
The higher infectivity of children in this study may be due to close contact with parents and other relatives caring for them.
The researchers noted that the overall contribution of child cases to the household transmission of COVID-19 was still limited because infected children were isolated faster than infected adults.
They also found that infants younger than 1 were much more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than children between the ages of 2 and 5.
This may be due to a combination of their still-developing immune systems and their close contact with adults.
The team says it’s unlikely there will be a vaccine for infants against COVID-19 in the near future, so doctors need to protect their caregivers.
They may want to prioritize caregivers for COVID-19 vaccination to protect infants indirectly because we don’t really know the long-term consequences of infection, especially in infants.
The researchers also found people who were asymptomatic throughout their infection were 80% less infectious than people with symptoms.
The secondary attack rate—the likelihood that a person with COVID-19 will infect another member of their household—was 15.6%, a rate similar to other respiratory pathogens.
Older adults were more likely to become infected than younger household members, especially those under age 20.
While children were less susceptible to COVID-19 infection than adults and they generally had less severe symptoms, they were just as likely to develop symptoms as adults.
One author of the study is Yang Yang, an associate professor of biostatistics and member of the Emerging Pathogens Institute.
The study is published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.
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