What will Covid look like in the years ahead? Young children could be most vulnerable to new variants

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Credit: Chicago Tribune
Credit: Chicago Tribune

Researchers predict SARS-CoV-2 could become endemic and primarily infect children, thereby shifting risk from older people to toddlers too young to be previously exposed or vaccinated.

Experience with similar beta coronaviruses and modeling across many countries and age groups allowed researchers to predict what COVID-19 could look like 1, 10, and 20 years from now.

“We are in the midst of a ‘virgin pandemic,’ a term epidemiologists use when the virus has not been seen before,” senior author Ottar Bjornstad, PhD, told Medscape Medical News. The novelty of COVID-19 is similar to when measles was first introduced or when smallpox first came to the Americas, he added.

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The study was published online August 11 in Science Advances.

If the predictions hold, most adults will be immune through vaccination or multiple exposures. The two circulating beta coronaviruses “cause a strong cold in children,” Bjornstad said. “We get exposed to the cold viruses many times during our lifetimes — and through re-exposure [infections] are more mild.”

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