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Cadel Walker rushed to get her 9-year-old daughter Solom vaccinated against COVID-19 – not only to protect her but to help stop the spread and spread of even more dangerous forms of the coronavirus.

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“Loving your neighbor is something we really believe in, and we want to be members of the good community and model that thinking for our daughter,” said the 40-year-old Louisville mom, who Recently took Solom to a local secondary school. for his shot. “The only way to truly defeat COVID is for all of us to collectively work together for the greater good.”

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Scientists agree. Each infection – whether in an adult in Yemen or a child in Kentucky – gives the virus another opportunity to mutate. Protecting a new, large portion of the population anywhere in the world limits those opportunities.

That effort now got a lift with 28 million American children ages 5 to 11 Suitable For a child-sized dose of Pfizer-BioEntech Vaccine. runs elsewhere, such as Austria’s recent decision is needed All adults have to be vaccinated and even the US authorizes booster shots for all adults FridayHelp by further reducing the chance of new infections.

Vaccinating children also means reducing silent spreads, as most of them have no or mild symptoms when they contract the virus. Scientists say that when the virus spreads undetected, it also goes away unabated. And as more people contract it, the chances of new variants increase.

David O’Connor, a virology expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, likens the infection to “the lottery ticket we are giving the virus”. Treasure? A type even more dangerous than the infectious delta currently spreading.

“The fewer people who are infected, the fewer lottery tickets there are and the better off we are at generating all the variants,” he said, adding that variants are even more likely to emerge in people with weakened immunity. Systems that harbor viruses for a long time.

Researchers disagree about how much children have influenced the course of the pandemic. Early research suggested that they did not contribute much to viral spread. But some experts say that this year children played an important role in spreading infectious forms like alpha and delta.

related: FDA panel backs Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children 5-11

Getting children vaccinated could make a real difference, according to estimates from the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, a collection of university and medical research organizations that integrates models of how a pandemic might unfold. The Hub’s latest estimates show that from this November to March 12, 2022, vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 will prevent approximately 4,30,000 COVID cases in the total US population if a new variant didn `t come. If a 50% more permeable variant than Delta appeared in late fall, 860,000 cases would be averted, “a huge impact,” said project co-leader Caitriona Shea of ​​Pennsylvania State University.

Delta is dominant for now, accounting for more than 99% of analyzed coronavirus samples in the United States. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why this is so. An infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Stuart Campbell Ray said it may be more contagious internally, or it may at least evade the protection that people get from vaccines or have been infected before.

“It’s probably a combination of those things,” he said. “But there’s also great and growing evidence that the delta is simply more fit, which means it’s able to rise to higher levels faster than the other types studied. So when people get deltas, they soon become contagious.”

Ray said there is “a big family” of delta viruses, and the world is now swimming in a “delta soup” of sorts.

“We have many delta lineages circulating in multiple places without a clear winner,” Wray said, adding that it is difficult to know from genetic characteristics whether there may be fringes, or which non-delta variants differentiate deltas. can.

“I often say it’s like seeing a car parked on the side of the road with racing slicks and racing stripes and an airfoil on the back and a big engine,” Ray said. “You know it looks like it could be a real contender, but until you see it on the track with other cars, you don’t know if it’s going to win.”

Another big unknown: Dangerous forms can still arise in largely non-vaccinated parts of the world and make their way to the US, even as American children join the ranks of immunizations.

Walker, a Louisville mother, said she and her husband can’t do anything about distant threats but can sign up her daughter for vaccinations at Jefferson County public school sites over a recent weekend. Solom has been adopted from Ethiopia and is prone to pneumonia followed by respiratory illnesses after being exposed to tuberculosis as a child.

She said she wanted to keep the other kids safe because “it’s not good to be sick.”

As a nurse bent down to give Solom her shot, Walker held her daughter’s hand, then praised her for choosing the appropriate post-jab stickers for a brave child who just helped stop an epidemic. played its role.

“Wonder Woman,” said Walker. “Excellent.”