CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Pediatric doctors at MUSC say COVID admissions to Shawn Jenkins Childrens Hospital spiked in August and September. Admissions in these two months account for 40% of all COVID admissions since the start of the pandemic.
Young children are considered to be a vulnerable population because of a lack of vaccination eligibility. Children aged five to eleven cannot be vaccinated. Older children are eligible for vaccination, but according to Dr. Elizabeth Mack, a pediatric doctor at Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, less than 30% of eligible children have completed the vaccination process in South Carolina.
She, along with Dr. Allison Eckard, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at MUSC, says the delta variant, which has accounted for nearly all recent COVID-19 cases in the United States, is five to eight more times contagious than previous strains and can cause more severe illness.
“I know we’re all ready to go back to normal whatever that means but…we can’t,” said Dr. Mack. “We’ve not only seen a surge in the acuity, the severity of the illness, but in the volume of kids needing hospitalization.”
With a surge in admissions come more children needing more intense care and treatment.
“We have seen more kids requiring ventilation, more kids requiring ECMO, in some cases double, triple the numbers we saw during the entire previous part of the pandemic,” said Dr. Eckard.
Dr. Eckard says in the last two months, 11 children have been put on ventilators and five children have needed ECMO, an extreme type of therapy.
A high number of cases of Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) have also been recorded in the last two months. Most cases have developed in healthy children.
“All of our children have been healthy. Maybe one or two had some asthma, but that is not why they got MIS-C so this is a condition that occurs in healthy children. Just in September, 25% of our cases were in that month alone,” said Dr. Eckard.
These numbers show kids are not out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19. Both doctors say the safety of children is in the hands of vaccinated adults.
“The best strategies include vaccination. That’s probably our best, ultimate strategy to get rid of all of this. To get rid of MIS-C, to get rid of COVID. For our younger kids who are not yet eligible, sort of forming a cacoon around them with vaccinated folks,” said Dr. Mack.
Dr. Eckard is reminding people that every child is someone’s child.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh well, only 20 have died in the state.’ These are people’s children!”