COVID-19 cases in children continue to grow while other age groups slow down, data shows

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — In Travis County between March and April, confirmed COVID-19 cases among children increased at a faster rate than any other age group. 

Data KXAN compiled from Austin Public Health showed during that time the total number of cases went up by more than 11% among those 0-19 years old. 

KXAN checked with a number of other counties. Spokespersons with Williamson and Hays counties responded back saying they don’t have a detailed percentage breakdown of ages readily available and neither does the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Nationwide, the American Academy of Pediatrics numbers from late April showed children made up 22% of all new COVID cases. 

“Even though the percentage of new COVID cases that are kids is going up, the overall number of COVID cases in kids has now actually decreased over the past two weeks. Because more adults are vaccinated, less will get sick overall,” explained Dr. Seth Kaplan, president of the Texas Pediatric Society, which is the local chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Not enough adults vaccinated

He’s been closely monitoring the numbers and said reaching herd immunity will be key. 

“Our young adults in their 20s and 30s have not gotten vaccinated at a rate equal to that of our older adults over 65. Which means that as long as there’s a significant part of the population that’s not immunized yet, there’s still a reservoir of disease to be passed on to kids,” said Kaplan. 

He’s also keeping a close eye on some of the variants which are becoming more prevalent, including the British and Brazilian variants considered to be more contagious in kids. 

“With the Brazilian variant in particular, there’s some concern that kids may be overtly sicker with it, but it’s not resulted in a significant uptick in hospitalizations at this point,” he said. “We need to watch carefully and make sure that those numbers don’t start increasing especially as…  some adults are still spreading this. It puts pressure on the virus to change itself, in ways that we get these new variants, and that have the potential to be more dangerous for kids.”

Vaccine rollout for children and teens

Children as young as 12 could soon get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to give emergency authorization for 12 to 15 year olds in the next few days. 

Some doctors are already encouraging parents to sign up once it’s available.

Kaplan said he’s hopeful there will be enough data to safely vaccinate even kids younger than 12 by early fall. 

Until then as more children get back into sports and other activities, he urged parents not to let their guards down. 

“The more you can do outdoors, the better since we know that COVID doesn’t spread as easily outdoors,” said Kaplan. “For indoor activities, choosing to go to places that still have masking and social distancing as part of their culture, I think is really important.” 

Other illnesses returning 

Statewide, the number of children diagnosed with MIS-C or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children has also gone up. 

The rare illness strikes after a COVID-19 infection. The state health department has confirmed 151 cases as of May 5 across Texas.  

“The condition causes different body parts to become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C may have fever and various symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired,” explained the health department online. 

Kaplan said he’s seeing a rise in other typical childhood illnesses that he hasn’t seen much of during the past year. 

“The number of sick children I am seeing who have something other than COVID is going up dramatically – RSV (Respirator Syncytial Virus), viral gastroenteritis, other viral respiratory illnesses. This has been a significant trend over the past month or so,” explained Kaplan.

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