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NYS Health Dept issues warning about rising COVID cases in children

A young girl wearing a face mask, next to a masked doctor
New York State Health Department

There's a rising number of kids being hit by COVID-19 and entering hospitals across the nation and in New York State. The State Health Department sent out a warning on Friday.

The State Health Department is linking the hospitalizations to relatively low vaccination rates among those under 18. Only 16% of those age 5-11 are fully vaccinated. About half of the kids reviewed by the Health Department are under five, an age group for which there is no vaccine and research problems suggest there may not be one for a while.

Data on the actual numbers isn't available and in the Sunday report from the department, it reported data collection problems, because the central data system was shut down for Christmas.

University at Buffalo clinical associate professor and Oishei Children's Hospital pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Shamim Islam said he's seeing more kids.

"Yes, in those who either are unable to be vaccinated or have not gotten the vaccine, that they are the predominant proportion to have come in with illness," Islam said. "We are, though, seeing children and others who have been vaccinated who are having illness. Typically, they are the milder cases."

Islam said what he's seeing in Oishei are patients from across the demographic board, with no particular group less involved or more involved.

"I can't say we haven't seen less than five-year-olds who are hospitalized, but in my experience — which includes being on Infectious Disease Service for about the last nine days at the hospital and over the last couple of years of the pandemic it's not many young children who continue to be ineligible for vaccines — not surprisingly, tend to be the less severe cases."

Islam said treatment procedures are well-established, although a few kids develop a rare and not well understood health problem called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children or MIS-C.

"What we're seeing is both acute COVID as well as what I think the general public has heard about, this MIS-C, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children, and some of those kids get sick," he said. "But, again, most of them are stabilizing. But it is troubling when you see someone who so closely resembles a close family member of yours."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.