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At the time of writing, 2.4% of Covid-related, United States hospitalisations were reported to be children, youngsters making up 15% of all new cases.
In New South Wales, children and teenagers made up 400 of the cases reported in the past fortnight. As schools haven’t been open since the start of term 3, the most likely source of their infection is their parents.
The Delta strain seems to be behaving differently from earlier strains, affecting youngsters more. It isn’t clear yet whether it’s making them sicker but, for many, it’s an unpleasant experience.
Long Covid is also always a possibility. In the UK, more than 100,000 infected under-25s have endured months of debilitating symptoms. In the US, about 10% of youngsters have been left with its lingering effects.
It can be frightening for a youngster to be unable to smell or taste for an extended period, to not have the physical energy to even move around the house let alone play and to have ongoing headaches, diarrhoea and chest and joint pains for weeks or months.
For teenagers, the length of time off school, the inability to participate in social activities, in sport, to sit exams and keep their part-time jobs can be very depressing.
While the numbers are still low for youngsters, long Covid is real. It’s unknown what longer-term health problems might arise and it’s unknown what a new strain of Covid might deliver.
It was interesting to see a report that 70% of English 18 to 29-year-olds have had their first jab. After being accused of taking restrictions lightly, it seems that they’ve now got the message.
In NSW, Federal Health Department data shows that, at the time of writing, more young people were now coming forward to get vaccinated, 12% of 16 to 19-year-olds having received their first dose, up from 7% in one week. A vaccination programme is now under way that is focused on the thousands of senior high school students in Sydney’s west and southwest where the bulk of the outbreak has been centred.
It was good to see that our Government’s latest Covid plan will make vaccination bookings available to all over the age of 16 from next month and that it has decided to move forward with the vaccination of the 12 to 15-year-old age group.
University of Otago researcher Amanda Kvalsvig is reported as saying that the vaccination of this latter group needed to happen right away. Once the summer break comes, it could mean several months’ delay for many of them.
Given the Delta outbreak, there’s only one thing we can responsibly do to protect our youngsters and others unable to be vaccinated - vaccinate ourselves, then our youngsters as soon as they become eligible.
Note: The Pfizer vaccine is now available for 12-15 year olds, having been given provisional Medsafe approval for people in that age bracket in June. Parents and caregivers can now book in 12-15-year-olds to receive their vaccination at the same time they do.