As the current COVID-19 boom continues to impact across the country, children and adolescents are the most vulnerable.
Despite its debilitating symptoms, the Omicron variant is far more contagious than other COVID-19 variants. With the holidays over and children going back to school, there is a huge increase in their cases.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, about 326,000 pediatric cases of COVID-19 were reported in the last week of December. Additionally, from December 27 to January 2, 672 children aged 17 years and below were admitted to hospitals daily due to COVID-19.
Despite the numbers, many doctors are expressing confidence that serious illnesses resulting from COVID-19 will continue to be rare.
“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 in children is uncommon,” the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote in its weekly report. “However, there is an urgent need to collect more data to assess the severity of the disease related to the new forms, as well as the long-term effects of the pandemic on children, including the extent to which the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, with as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”
There is also a new hope that vaccines will become more widespread among children. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially approved Pfizer-BioNtech’s vaccine booster for children ages 12 to 15. Currently, children under the age of 5 can receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Afternoon with the Grammys. Birthday Celebrations. Meeting other kids in the park. Parents of children too young to be vaccinated are faced with difficult choices as the Omicron variant-fueled surge in COVID-19 cases makes each encounter riskier.
For Maine business owner Erin Connolly, the most gruesome decision involves Madeleine, her 3-year-old daughter, and Connolly’s mother, who takes care of a girl one day a week she’s not in preschool.
It’s a treasured time to make cookies, go to the library, or just hang out. But the spirited little girl resists wearing a mask, and with the highly contagious version spreading at a furious pace, Connolly says she’s wondering how long it can continue “and when it feels unsafe. ”
West Bath’s Connolly said she worries less about Madeleine and her 6-year-old vaccinated son getting the virus than about the effects of illness and isolation on the grandparents. But he’s also worried about his vaccinated parents contracting success cases.
Although health experts say omicron causes less severe illness and fewer hospitalizations, its rapid spread indicates that it is much more contagious than other types. According to the CDC, about 718,000 COVID cases were recorded on Tuesday. Omicron is currently the culprit in more than 90 percent of US cases, a surprising increase compared to less than 10 percent two weeks ago.
The nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said surrounding children with vaccinated adults is one way to protect children from becoming infected with the virus. Health officials also reiterate that face masks prevent transmission, and applying them to children 2 and older in public and group settings can help keep them safe.
Connolly, 39, and her mother had a tough conversation Tuesday morning about the dilemma.
“Will Madeleine be masked?” his mother asked. “I said, ‘We’re trying, but I don’t know if she will,'” Connolly recalled. “I said, ‘Does this mean the Grammys are gone Thursday?’ ‘I’m not sure yet,’ she said, tearfully.
Parents who had hoped the new year might bring a COVID vaccine to young children were in for a blow when Pfizer announced last month that two doses did not provide as much protection in young people between the ages of 2 and 4. are as expected.
Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at Stanford University Medical School, Dr. Yvonne Maldonado said researchers were disappointed by the setback, but are working to restart the study using a third vaccine dose. Maldonado is leading the university’s Pfizer Vaccine Study in children under the age of 12.
Maldonado said she understands the frustration of parents with young children, but advises them to avoid unnecessary travel during this current boom, and to ensure that their day care centres, preschools and other care Providers are required to wear masks and take other recommended precautions.
Given the spread of Omicron, Honolulu resident Jacob Aki is considering throwing a first birthday party for his 10-month-old son. It is important to celebrate milestones in your native Hawaiian culture. This tradition stems from the time before the measles vaccine became available, when reaching one’s first birthday was a feat. The family also canceled plans to experience snow in Canada. Meanwhile, every cough and sniff is stirring up anxiety.
“Children usually get sick at this age,” Aki said. “But as with everything with COVID… the concern is high.”
Heather Simellaro, a technology teacher in Auburn, Maine, says she’s more worried than ever about keeping her 3-year-old identical twin boys healthy. Someone has had medical problems related to their premature birth and the family makes regular trips to Boston to see a specialist.
“COVID could really throw a wrench in those plans,” Cimellaro said.
Cimellaro, 33, says Omicron has reconsidered her ongoing work with the twins, library storytime visits, even a preschool located in a health center for the elderly. She worries that the boys could catch COVID and spread it to their “grand-friends”.
“It’s a matter of great concern: ‘Am I doing the right thing? he said. “That’s the point. I’m no epidemiologist. I don’t know how dangerous it is for them. So it’s like that kind of argument with me.”
Erin Stanley of Berion Springs, Michigan, said she and her husband cut their social lives down because of Omicron to help protect their 3-year-old son, Ralph. They are both vaccinated and raised, but they worry about Ralph getting sick and spreading the disease to his younger cousins, preschool classmates, grandparents, and a beloved great-grandmother.
He didn’t see great-grandmother on Christmas and didn’t even go on holidays with other relatives.
“It was disturbing,” Stanley said. “We all really wanted to. It just seemed risky.”
Stanley, 35, a cook at a popular organic farm, Ralph used to go grocery shopping, a trip he looked forward to and which represented one of his few social interactions outside of preschool. But some shoppers wear masks, she said, and now it seems too risky.
The shy little boy has had three scares and three negative COVID tests recently.
“It was really painful for him to do the swab test,” Stanley said, adding that “virus” and “swab” are now part of his vocabulary.
“He keeps saying, ‘I don’t want to have a broomstick! he said. “If there’s a vaccine for that, we’ll definitely get it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.