Pediatric vaccines lagging, more children on ventilators from COVID-19

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) — There were more children on ventilators treated for COVID-19 at children’s hospitals in South Carolina on Thursday than at any time during the pandemic.

According to the South Carolina Children’s Hospital Collaborative, a nonprofit of the state’s four children’s hospitals, on Thursday 11 COVID-positive children were on ventilators, 14 COVID-positive children were in critical care and 32 children were hospitalized with COVID-19. 19 .

All of those children had not been vaccinated, according to the SCCHC, although most of them were old enough to qualify for the injection.

The partnership reports that about 66% of children hospitalized with COVID, about 71% of those in intensive care and about 64% of those on a ventilator were 12 years of age or older. Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID vaccine.

“The challenge is: how do we get people to want to have their children vaccinated?” said Dr. Caughman Taylor, the senior medical director of Prisma Health Children’s Hospital – Midlands. “And you know, it’s just so frustrating to sit here on a daily basis and see the grief and tragedy of children who are unnecessarily ill.”

Taylor said the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit has been busy for as long as it has ever seen.

He said the PICU was at 108% capacity on Thursday, after adding another bed to the usual number of beds to cater for more patients.

“Over the past nearly six weeks, except maybe one or two nights, we’ve been at full capacity in our pediatric intensive care unit,” Taylor said. “We’ve never had that situation before in my more than 25, 30 years here.”

That has led to longer wait times in the hospital’s pediatric emergency room, Taylor said, where children are sometimes treated when beds aren’t available.

“Our wait times usually go from less than an hour – we’ve sometimes waited four to six hours, and the sad thing about that is that many families decide to leave and not show their child, and then an illness can get worse in a child, said Taylor.

Data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environment Control shows that approximately 34% of South Carolina residents ages 12 to 19 have received at least one vaccine dose, and approximately 25% of those in that age group have been fully vaccinated .

Those numbers fall short of the vaccination coverage for all eligible South Carolinas, of whom about 58% have received at least one shot and about 49% have been fully vaccinated. However, children aged 12 to 15 were not eligible for vaccination until May.

Taylor said this is one of the reasons childhood vaccination rates may be lower than the general population, although the vaccine is currently widely available.

But he said other factors are also likely contributing to low vaccination rates, including older children and teens who don’t see the doctor as often as younger children, missing out on an opportunity to learn about and deal with the COVID injection. receive.

He said parents may not think their children should be vaccinated either, especially if they haven’t been vaccinated themselves.

“If the parents are not vaccinated, they will often not have their child vaccinated,” Taylor said.

DHEC’s director of public health, Dr. Brannon Traxler, agreed that the later start date of the vaccine in the 12-15 age group likely contributed to the lower rate for the 12-19 age group.

“But they’ve certainly had plenty of opportunities,” she said. “I think that age group is very difficult to convince that they need a preventive health action, like a vaccine, that they are not invincible and that this is important for themselves, but also for everyone else.”

Traxler said DHEC will continue to spread the word that the vaccine is safe, effective and the best way for children, teens and their families to return to their pre-pandemic lives.

“We all want things to go back to normal,” she says. “I think teens are definitely among those who really want to get back to normal, so this is the best and fastest way we can do it and that prevents us from losing most of the lives along the way.”

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