Children aren’t at high risk for COVID-19, but getting the vaccine is important for them anyway, according to a pair of pediatricians.
Vaccinations dramatically reduce the small personal risk children face and reduce the risk of them passing the virus on to people at high risk of hospitalization and death.
This is a risk that persists with the omicron variant, which infects a significant number of vaccinated people, doctors said.
But childhood immunization rates in the region are not good, reflecting low adult immunization rates, according to Dr. Nader Younes of Pediatric Healthcare Associates in Altoona and Dr. Jessica Ericson, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Penn State. Health Children’s Hospital in Hershey. .
Although the risk to children is low, the new prevalence of omicron, the reopening of schools and the relaxation of mitigation measures have shown that the risk to children is greater than previously thought, Ericson said.
More children hospitalized
Proof of this is the growing number of children hospitalized for COVID-19 in Hershey. There are 20 now, mostly unvaccinated, nearly three times the previous peak in October, Ericson said. Everyone who comes to the hospital needs oxygen, and some have to be on a ventilator for up to two weeks.
Two died, she said.
“We underestimated how children can be affected” she said. “We have falsely developed the idea that children don’t get sick.
At Pediatric Healthcare Associates, the number of COVID-19 patients has increased in recent months to an average of around 10 per day, Younes said.
Before that the number was “sporadic,” he said.
The idea that children don’t get sick from COVID-19 is a myth, Younes said.
The UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh is currently “See an increase” in children who test positive and need to be hospitalized, according to Dr David Burwell, quality manager at UPMCs Altoona, Bedford, Somerset and Western Maryland.
The increase in pediatric cases is probably due to the high transmissibility of omicron.
There seems to be some disagreement with other reports that Omicron is milder than Delta, the previous dominant variant.
The number of intensive care units for children at UPMC has fallen, although the number of cases has increased.
Pediatric health care hospital admissions remained stable, although the number of cases increased.
Hershey hasn’t had time to revisit his recent numbers, due to the surge, but Ericson is skeptical that omicron is being softer.
Belief in its mitigation began with the earliest studies, but these were done in places where vaccination rates and previous infection rates were higher than in our region, perhaps offering protection that n is not as prevalent here, she said.
Advantages of the company
While there are groundbreaking cases with omicron, these remain less common than infections in unvaccinated people, according to Ericson. And vaccinated people who are infected are less contagious. Vaccinated people are contagious for a shorter period of time.
While they don’t provide complete insurance against infection, vaccinations still do a great job of preventing hospitalization and death, especially with boosters, according to Ericson and Younes.
Some families, however, are reluctant.
Only about 30 percent of families who attend Pediatric Healthcare Associates get their children immunized, Younes said.
It’s disappointing, he says.
About half of parents who do not get their children vaccinated do not get vaccinated themselves, he said.
Refusing to be vaccinated shows a lack of comparative risk assessment, according to Ericson, who did not hesitate to have his kindergarten child vaccinated.
If an unvaccinated child is infected with COVID-19, there is a 2% – two in a hundred – chance that something serious will happen, she said.
There is only a 1 in 2 million chance of a negative side effect with vaccination, she said.
“Orders of magnitude (different)”, Ericson said. “The math is clear. “
She shared other stats with a different slant:
Initial results show that 3 to 5% of children in the Hershey hospital service area who contracted COVID-19 ended up being hospitalized, Ericson said.
About 1% of children who contracted COVID-19 ended up in intensive care, she said. About half of people in intensive care need a ventilator.
Side effects of the vaccine
of short time
“The risk that your child will get very sick or die is low” Ericson said. “There is a 100% chance that someone’s child will get very sick. “
Side effects from the vaccination, such as arm pain, fever and headache, last for two days at most, Younes said.
A few cases have been reported of post-vaccination myocarditis in older children, Younes said.
But these all resolved on their own, he said. COVID-19 itself is 10 times more likely to cause myocarditis.
The decision to vaccinate became “a little political” said Younès.
Some people argue that development and approvals have been rushed, he said. This is not true, although the urgency of the situation has resulted in a compression of the process.
“I understand the hesitation” said John Pastorek, director of pharmacy for Mainline Pharmacy, which has provided vaccines since the start of the pandemic, to clinics and its stores, including 10,000 vaccines for younger children and 20,000 for older children.
The proportion of the population of children in the region who get vaccinated is much lower than that of adults, he said.
Parents have expressed concern about the vaccine’s interaction with growing bodies, he said.
“I don’t think there is any science behind it,” he said. Parents are careful, he says. “But we have to do something to end the pandemic. “
Weekly test requested
He recommends a rapid test of all students and staff once a week – or once a month – at each school to identify those who are pre-symptomatic but contagious.
Infected people can be contagious for two days before symptoms appear.
Peak transmission can last up to three to five days after symptoms start, and contagiousness can last up to 10 days after symptoms start, he said.
Adopting such a policy could be a problem due to limitations in the number of tests available, he said.
“We haven’t explored this idea here”, said Paula Foreman, spokesperson for the Altoona Region School District. “It would be a decision of the school board. “
Since the start of the school year, 125 Altoona staff and 537 students have tested positive for COVID-19, including 38 students this week, Foreman said.
“We have seen an increase in COVID activity”, said Foreman.
The district is asking parents to keep students home if they are showing symptoms and to notify the district if their child is positive, she said.
The district is conducting a contact tracing to identify those who need to be notified for quarantine.
Pediatric vaccinations by local county, 5-11 years:
Blair 337 partial; 892 full; Bedford 46, 151; Cambria 488, 882; Center 538, 2,891; Clearfield 159, 354; and Huntingdon 83, 165.
Mirror staff writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.