Although initially thought to be free from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we now know that children contract COVID-19 at similar rates to adults. In December 2021 and January 2022, COVID-19 infections in children increased when the highly transmissible variant of Omicron became the predominant strain. Childhood infections, hospitalizations and deaths have increased at an unprecedented rate in the coronavirus pandemic.
A study, published this week in Pediatrics, sought to determine the incidence and longitudinal presence of the natural antibody response to COVID-19 infection. Due to the prioritization of screening of adults and immunocompromised individuals earlier in the pandemic, the antibody response in the pediatric population is largely unknown.
The Ongoing Texas Coronavirus Antibody Response Survey (Texas CARES) is a prospective, population-based seroprevalence undertaking to assess COVID-19 antibody status over time. This study included Texas CARES participants ages 5-19, who completed 3 antibody assessments over a 6-8 month period. Demographic information and symptom status related to COVID-19 infection were determined via a questionnaire.
The study included 218 Texas CARES participants, whose average age was 12.8 years. Of the 34.4% of the sample who had core antibodies at baseline, 96% of them maintained these antibodies 6 months or more later.
Notably, there was no difference in the presence of antibodies by symptom status (ie, symptomatic versus asymptomatic infection) or disease severity (mild to moderate versus severe). Antibodies also did not differ by gender, age, or body mass index during the 3 antibody measurement periods.
The investigators performed a sensitivity analysis to test the differences between participants who completed all 3 antibody assessments and participants who did not. The only significant demographic variable was ethnicity; Hispanic participants were more likely to have completed all 3 assessments than non-Hispanic white participants.
The results showed that the majority of children and adolescents retained pre-existing COVID-19 antibodies for at least 6 months after natural infection. Investigators noted that 57.9% of children in the cohort were negative for infection-induced antibodies at the third assessment, suggesting that a large number of children and adolescents still lack immunity. natural to COVID-19. Therefore, they wrote, “Vaccines have an important role to play in providing protection against COVID-19 for children aged 5 and older, and for those
In a statement, corresponding author Sarah Messiah, PhD, MPH, explained the findings. “Adult literature shows us that natural infection, plus vaccine-induced protection, gives you the best defense against COVID-19. There has been a misunderstanding from some parents who think that just because their child has had COVID-19 they are now protected and do not need to be vaccinated. Although our study is encouraging in that a certain amount of natural antibodies last at least six months in children, we still do not know the absolute threshold of protection. We have a great tool available to give children extra protection by getting vaccinated, so if your child is eligible, take advantage of it.