Healthbeat: COVID pediatric patient concerns

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EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — The new year has picked up with COVID infections where 2021 left off.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports more than 100,000 Americans are hospitalized with the virus for the first time in nearly four months.

Those hospitalizations include increasing numbers among some of the youngest patients. The trend of more young infected patients is something northeastern and central Pennsylvania’s largest healthcare organization is experiencing first-hand.

A pandemic risk has been proven true especially in recent weeks and now in the new year. Children and adolescents are not spared from becoming infected with COVID-19.

“Schools are back in session. Some schools are even opting not to have children wear masks in school so all of these factors are contributing to an increase in overall cases including pediatrics,” Director of Infectious Diseases, Geisinger NE Region Dr. Alison Brodginski said.

Rising numbers are fueled by the emergence of the current dominant novel coronavirus strain: omicron.

“We know omicron is a much more transmissible variant than even delta and because of that we know by design we’re going to see more infections,” Dr. Brodginski said.

And unlike previous variants, it causes more upper airway problems which can be more dangerous for kids compared to adults. Healthcare providers like Geisinger report a rising number of children hospitalized with COVID including a vast majority age-eligible for the vaccine but haven’t received a shot. Dr. Brodginski says vaccine side effects are extremely rare, but what’s not?

“What we are seeing is the devastation of the actual infection, COVID-19 and we know what that does,” Dr. Brodginski said.

It’s resulted in short-term immediate effects of children getting sick as well as a concern of long-term debilitating symptoms. So how strongly does Dr. Brodginski recommend the COVID vaccine for children five and older?

“I’m not only an infectious disease doctor but I’m a mom. And I’ve actually had both of my children receive the vaccine, one who just turned five last month. And so I only recommend something that I would do for myself. I’ve read the data. I understand it,” Dr. Brodginski said.

CDC data shows children are the least vaccinated age group in the U.S. Only about 53 percent of kids 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated, with those ages five to 11 far less.

As far as when children younger than five may be eligible for the vaccine, we know that vaccine manufacturers are working on a vaccine, but at this point it’s not expected any earlier than spring or summer.

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