JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The omicron variant is teaming up with the holiday season to infect more children across the United States than ever before.
According to an NBC News analysis of Department of Health and Human Services data, Florida is one of the five states that have contributed the most to the recent spike in pediatric hospitalizations.
Nationwide, on average, pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations are up about 30% in just the past week.
Locally, Wolfson Children's Hospital told First Coast News it had three COVID-19 positive patients on Tuesday, which is a slight decrease from four COVID-19 positive patients a week ago.
However, Dr. Sunil Joshi, President of Duval County Medical Society Foundation, says parents can’t let their guard down.
“We have indeed seen the deleterious effects of the virus on people, hospitalizations," Dr. Joshi explained. "How bad it was here in the summer of 2021 – we don't want to see that happen again. And we certainly don't want to see children in the hospital for COVID and long-term COVID. Unfortunately, this is this may be what it takes to get people to understand the importance of a vaccine.”
Nationwide, less than 1 in 4 children ages 5 to 11 are vaccinated.
Dr. Joshi says it’s important to get your child vaccinated, so they won’t be hospitalized with serious COVID-19 symptoms.
“The more of these variants that we see, the more likely they are to infect children," he said. "And, in particular, since they're the last folks to be eligible to be vaccinated. And it's been a slow uptake in terms of getting them vaccinated as well. It's not that surprising for us to start to see that the sickest among us are our children.“
Besides having your children receive the COVID-19 vaccine, he also recommends sending your child back to school after the holidays masked-up to give them an extra layer of protection.
First Coast News reached out to all the major local school districts this week to see if any were going to adjust their COVID-19 policies after winter break in response to the omicron surge. None have responded yet.