The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was prompted to plead with parents to vaccinate their children after a study showed hospitalization rates for teens with COVID-19 increased in March and April.
“I’m deeply concerned by the numbers of hospitalized adolescents and saddened to see the numbers of adolescents who required treatment in intensive care units or mechanical ventilation,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement last week. “Much of this suffering can be prevented.”
How are teens in King County and Washington state doing? Are we seeing similar, alarming trends? How do our numbers stack up? What about teens and vaccinations?
For this week’s FAQ Friday, we delve into these questions and explain when children 11 and younger could be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
How do teen hospitalizations locally compare to the rest of the nation?
The CDC study was small, including only 376 people between the ages of 12 and 17 who were hospitalized and had tested positive for the coronavirus between Jan. 1 and March 31. Of those testing positive, 204 were hospitalized primarily for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, with 31% landing in intensive care and 5% needing a ventilator. None died.
The Washington State Department of Health doesn’t break out 12- to 17-year-olds as a subgroup when tracking COVID-19 data, instead grouping people 19 and younger on its dashboard.
According to DOH’s data, there hasn’t been a large increase in the numbers of hospitalizations of children and teens. There were 172 children and adolescents between infancy and 19 years old hospitalized since January. February and March saw the fewest hospitalizations of this group, with 26. January had the most with 67 and April hospitalizations bumped up to 53.
King County hasn’t experienced the trend found in the CDC’s study. From January through April there has been an average of fewer than 10 hospitalizations for those 19 and younger, Public Health – Seattle & King County spokesperson Gabriel Spitzer said.
Young people still need to be vaccinated despite the low numbers in Washington, Spitzer said.
“It’s important for people to know that younger people can still get severely ill with COVID, even if the risk is lower than for older people, and that the youngest age groups are either only recently eligible for vaccine or, in the case of 11 and younger, not yet eligible.”
How has the push to vaccinate adolescents been going in Washington?
As of June 5, more than 116,000 of residents ages 12-15 have gotten at least one dose of Pfizer, which is the only vaccine currently approved for those younger than 16. That’s about 30% of teens in that age group in Washington, compared to the national average of 23%.
Statewide, 42% of 16- and 17-year-olds, or 79,115 teens, have been jabbed once and 30% are fully vaccinated. The average across the country for receiving one dose in this age group is 38%, with 27% fully vaccinated.
School districts across the county are holding vaccination clinics to boost vaccination rates before school starts in September.
Seattle Public Schools is working with the city and the county health department to vaccinate students 12 and older through 19 clinics at schools in the district. So far, 4,207 students have received their first dose and 664 have had both shots and will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose.
When will children younger than 12 be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Pfizer and Moderna, both makers of a two-dose mRNA vaccine, are working on getting vaccines ready for children 11 and younger. Both companies expect to have results for 5- to 11-year-olds by September. Pfizer announced it will start testing in infants aged at least 6 months in the coming weeks.
Pfizer could apply for emergency use authorization for children 5-11 in September. Moderna began working on finding the right dosage for children in March and is expecting results by the end of summer.
“I think it’s going to be early fall, just because we have to go down in age very slowly and carefully,” Moderna’s chief executive, Stéphane Bancel, told The New York Times on Monday.