Pediatricians cite rising cases of Covid-19 cases in youth as cause for worry, say vaccines make it largely preventable

Fayette County School Supt. Demetrus Liggins, center right, greeted second-grade students of Laura Crance, center left, on their first day of school. (Photo by Marcus Dorsey, Lexington Herald-Leader)

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky Children’s Hospital physicians said Thursday that rising coronavirus cases or severe Covid-19 cases in youth are cause for worry, and because most of the severe cases are in children over 12, they are are preventable through vaccination.

“As the pandemic has progressed, and especially now during this past month when we’ve seen a rise in the Delta variant, which is a much more contagious strain of Covid-19 than earlier strains, we’re starting to see more and more children become infected and also more and more children having complications related to Covid-19,” Dr. Sean McTigue, medical director for pediatric infection prevention and control at the hospital, part of the University of Kentucky.

Severe Covid-19 is a condition that requires a person to have inpatient hospital care, oxygen support, anti-viral medications and steroid medications, said McTigue.

He said since the beginning of the pandemic, Kentucky Children’s Hospital has treated 10 children with severe infections, four were admitted within the last 14 days and two within the last two days.

“So that’s 40 percent of our total severe Covid [that] have occurred within the past two weeks and 20 percent within the past two days, and that’s definitely alarming to me, as as it seems to be a distinct upward trend,” said McTigue.

None of the 10 children with severe infections were vaccinated, even though eight were eligible for a vaccine. “This is by and large a fully preventable illness,” McTigue said.

Only about one-third of Kentucky’s eligible youth have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to state Health Commissioner Steven Stack.

McTigue added that there has been an increase in children testing positive in outpatient contacts, and one concern about them is that they are at risk of getting Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children between four to six weeks after infection. Since the start of the pandemic, he said the hospital has had 26 children with MIS-C, and most of these cases have been in older children.
MIS-C is also a preventable condition, McTigue said: “If we’re getting our eligible kids immunized, we can prevent this. . . . The more adults that we get immunized, the fewer infections we’re going to see in children and the fewer of these complications that we’re going to see.”
One of the huge drivers for children to be at risk for severe Covid-19 or to MIS-C is obesity, a real problem in Kentucky. About 38% of Kentucky children ages 10 to 17 are considered overweight or obese, one of the highest rates in the nation.
Children with pre-existing conditions and non-white children, especially African American children, are also at increased risk.

“So there are definitely pockets of children who are at higher risk than average,” McTigue said. “But for any child, the risk is certainly not zero. And when there’s something very easy, safe and effective that we can do to protect them, like getting them immunized, I think it makes a lot of sense to do so.”

More than 400 American children have died of Covid-19.
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