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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

What we know about the COVID-19 variants and their impact on children

Dr. Melanie Wellington said there is still a lot of debate surrounding the variants and how much they affect kids.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — There is a lot of good news on the fight against coronavirus: nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have been given the vaccine, according to ABC News. On Monday, all restrictions for eligibility to get the COVID-19 vaccine will be lifted in America, allowing anyone above the age of 16 to get a shot.

But coronavirus remains in our communities and continues to take the lives of thousands of Americans. To date, more than 5,000 Iowans have died from the virus. 

The B.1.1.7. variant, which has origins in the United Kingdom, is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in Iowa.

RELATED: IDPH confirms 2nd COVID-19 variant in the state

The variants are more contagious, according to medical experts. But there is still a lot researchers don't know about the variants and their impact on certain populations.

"It's really difficult to know," said Dr. Melanie Wellington of the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. "There's a lot of debate among experts right now...but what I'd like to point out for sure is that we do know for certain it's not just Iowa. This is a global phenomenon."

Wellington said B.1.1.7 is more contagious, and so any individual who isn't protected with the vaccine against a more contagious virus is more likely to get infected.

Children are the only sector of the population who are not eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccines. Though trials are happening across the country, the shot won't be available to kids for some time.

Wellington also pointed out the combination of a more contagious virus spreading in the community with the relaxed restrictions and behavior adults are modeling for children as contributing factors to an uptick in cases among children.

Watch more coronavirus stories on Local 5's YouTube channel.