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S.C. has 2nd-highest rate of COVID cases in kids across U.S.

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 8:43 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics & the Children’s Hospital Association shows that South Carolina has the second-highest rate of COVID cases in children across the United States.

The report outlines that for every 100,000 children in the state, about 14,600 have contracted COVID since the pandemic began. This is almost double the national average.

Dr. Anna-Kathryn Burch, a Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital, said these findings echo what she’s seeing.

“We are seeing increased numbers of COVID patients in the pediatric population, definitely,” she said. “You can ask any pediatric physician who is in the community. They are definitely seeing bigger numbers of sick visits, those kind of things.”

She hopes the numbers have reached a peak, though.

Data from the South Carolina Children’s Hospital Collaborative shows that there are 28 children statewide hospitalized with COVID on Tuesday.

Burch said the majority of pediatric hospitalizations she sees are among the unvaccinated, which tracks with current trends. All 28 of the currently hospitalized children have not received the COVID vaccine.

“It’s either that 12 and above that aren’t vaccinated by choice or the under 12 who is not eligible to get the vaccine,” she said. “Hopefully we’re going to have some good news here in a couple of weeks from Pfizer that the FDA will go ahead and allow the 5 to 11-year-old patients to start getting their vaccine against COVID, as well. And I really think that that will help us with our pediatric numbers.”

Pfizer and BioNTech submitted COVID vaccine data on children ages 5 to 11 to the FDA for initial review on Tuesday, but are not yet seeking an emergency use authorization. That could be weeks away.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said hopefully vaccines can go into the arms of young children by the end of October.

Burch says there’s an added benefit that comes when this 5-11-year-old population can be fully vaccinated.

“If your child is exposed to COVID, they don’t have to come home and quarantine,” she said. “They get to stay in school and that’s amazing. Not only is it great for the kid, who gets to stay in in-person learning, but it’s also great for the parent because you don’t have to take time off, right, to be home while your child is being quarantined.”

The report from the American Academy of Pediatrics & the Children’s Hospital Association also shows that as of Thursday, September 23, 596 South Carolina children had been hospitalized with COVID since the onset of the pandemic.

“Currently for the kids who are 12 and above who are hospitalized, a good majority of them do have comorbidities, and the biggest one of those comorbidities is obesity,” Burch said.

Burch said because of this, the best thing people over the age of 12 with comorbidities can do to protect themselves against COVID is get vaccinated.

She cautions that other viruses are causing a strain on pediatric hospitals as well.

“Remember that there’s other viruses that are out there too,” Burch said. “So we’ve been talking about RSV in the past, flu is coming up as well. And all of that together comes to a perfect storm in the pediatric population.”

Statewide, 20 children have died from COVID throughout the pandemic, according to the report.

Earlier this month, Aiken County Coroner Darryl Ables confirmed that two local children had recently died due to COVID.

In a statement, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said that the statewide increase in pediatric cases and hospitalizations is “concerning.” They cannot comment further on clinical trial data for the 5-11 age group, as it is still early in the approval process. As Pfizer awaits a EUA, DHEC is encouraging everyone ages 12 and up to get vaccinated.

“COVID-19 vaccines have some of the highest efficacy rates we’ve ever seen among vaccines and are saving lives daily,” DHEC said.

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