PRINCETON — Approval of a COVID vaccine for those 5 to 11 years old may come within the next few weeks, and at a crucial time as the spread among youth has dramatically increased.
In Mercer County, 275 new cases were confirmed from Oct. 1 to Oct. 7. Of those, the age category with the highest percentage of positive cases was 5 to 11 years old, with 42 cases, or 15.2 percent of the total.
“The 5 to 11 age group is the most vulnerable because they have not been vaccinated,” said Mercer County Health Department Administrator Roger Topping. “The Delta virus seeks out those with least resistance.”
That includes anyone who is not vaccinated. “We see that most of the new cases are of those who have chosen not to get the vaccines.”
“That is what these variants do,” he said. “They seek out those next targets.”
Those targets are also more and more in age brackets who can get vaccinated, but have lower percentages of vaccinations.
In fact, more than 60 percent of the cases in Mercer County during that week were among residents 40 years old and younger.
That pattern is reflected statewide.
The DHHR reported almost 10 percent of the total cases from Oct. 1 though Oct. 7, or 816 cases, were from 5 and 11 years old.
That was the largest category below 30 years old, with that age bracket making up more than 30 percent of all cases. Another 30-plus percent of the cases were between 31 and 50 years old, with 30 percent 51 and older.
About two-thirds of all new positive cases are age 50 and below, a shift, officials say, that was caused by the high percentage of those 50 and older getting vaccinated.
The age 12 to 30 category has the lowest vaccination rate, below 50 percent.
Gov. Jim Justice has urged parents and grandparents to get involved and urge their younger family members to get vaccinated.
“Why would you allow your children (and grandchildren) to take that risk?” he said.
Dr. Clay Marsh, state COVID-19 Czar, recently said he is encouraged by Pfizer’s request for emergency authorization to provide vaccinations to ages 5 to 11, citing statistics that show a 254 percent increase nationwide in new cases from newborns to age 18.
“This is a really welcome piece of news for all of us,” he said, adding that he hopes the FDA and CDC approve the request quickly.
Speculation is that request may be approved by the end of this month.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in West Virginia, the population 20 years old and younger was 402,473 in 2019. Among that population, as of Sept. 30, 52,636 positive cases were reported, or 21.9 percent of total positive cases among all age groups.
In Virginia, the total population from 0 to 19 years old was 2,087,426 in 2019, with 154,122 positive COVID cases now reported, or 17.8 percent of the total number of positive cases.
Nationwide, the AAP reported that as of Sept. 30, nearly 5.9 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. The number of new child COVID cases remains exceptionally high. Over 173,000 cases were added the past week, with nearly 850,000 child cases added over the past 4 weeks.
Marsh said recently new cases in the country in youth make up more than 26 percent of positive cases, but those 18 and under who test positive need to be hospitalized infrequently and a death is rare.
The AAP said that at this time, “it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children. However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”
Justice talked about that aspect recently, saying it is the side effects, both short term and long term, of children getting the virus that he is most concerned about.
Youth who are infected also spread it, increasing the chances of another variant developing.
All health officials agree that the bottom line is everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated should do so, and then take boosters when they are recommended and available.
“The only way out of this is vaccinations,” Justice said.
Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com.