CNN: Help us to make sense of these numbers. Is there a new strain that’s affecting young people more? Or is it just that young people are out and about more than before?
Combine that with the fact that younger people are more mobile and engaging in more activities, and that’s probably what’s accounting for an increased proportion and numbers of cases in younger age groups.
CNN: What are the implications for school? Does this mean schools will have to close?
CNN: If it’s younger age groups who are getting infected, should we be prioritizing them for vaccination?
All that said, I do agree with specifically increasing access to those most likely to contract coronavirus and to spread it, too. Vaccination efforts should aim to make getting the vaccine the easy and convenient choice. For example, a vaccination drive on college campuses will bring vaccines directly to people. Similarly, vaccines can be offered at workplaces, on a walk-in basis. These efforts to increase access and convenience will be really important, especially for younger people who have other priorities to tend to.
CNN: What should people do now to protect themselves, if there is a more contagious variant around?
Wen: The same precautions we’ve been advising all along still apply. The B.1.1.7 variant spreads through the respiratory route, just like the wild-type, or common, strains, so please continue to wear masks, keep physical distancing, and avoid indoor gatherings with people who are not in your household. Try to hold off on gathering with people indoors until after you’re vaccinated. Once you’re vaccinated, you can see other fully vaccinated people indoors, but until then, please see people outdoors, with physical distancing.
And please, get vaccinated as soon as you can. The vaccines that are authorized all appear to be very effective against the B.1.1.7 variant. Getting vaccinated will protect you from becoming ill from coronavirus, and it will also reduce the likelihood of your spreading it to others.
CNN: Are there particular precautions for children to be taking, since those under 16 cannot be vaccinated yet?
Know that children tend to get much less sick than adults, but some children have become severely ill and, tragically, some have died from Covid-19.
Kids under 16 cannot be vaccinated yet, but [for] parents and those around the kids, getting vaccinated helps to protect them. The end is not that far away, and the summer will hopefully be much better in terms of infection level. So please continue to take precautions to protect your children and your family.