With hospital rates increasing dramatically with the new surge in coronavirus cases – due to the more contagious and more serious Delta variant – the need for community action surrounding vaccinations continues to grow.
As of late August 2021, in the Fox Cities region, only 50.3% of people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“In Shawano County, that number is even lower, with 40.0% in the county having received one dose,” said Dr. Jasmine Wiley, M.D., Family Medicine Physician, ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano. “This puts our community at significantly higher risk of illness and hospitalization from COVID-19 with the increased prevalence of the delta variant.”
Several startling truths remain ahead regarding COVID-19 in Northeast and Central Wisconsin: The vast majority of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations in the U.S are among those who are unvaccinated.
“While many people are feeling pandemic-fatigue, this is no time to let our guard down,” said Dr. Wiley. “It’s vital that we rally as a community to protect ourselves and others. The best way to help protect our community, including children, is to have them vaccinated when they are eligible, and for the adults to get vaccinated as well.”
Over the course of the next few weeks, ThedaCare providers will tackle COVID-19 vaccine myths and misinformation. The topics will vary from myths around altering DNA to the vaccine causing fertility issues.
COVID-19 Vaccine Myth #2: Children aren’t really at risk for COVID-19, so my kids shouldn’t get vaccinated.
You may have read articles that report children are not as susceptible to the COVID-19 virus, or that they do not suffer serious effects of the virus when they contract the disease.
“While hospitalization rates for children have been lower than adults throughout the pandemic thus far, they are still at risk of contracting the disease, and of complications and long-term effects due to the COVID-19 virus,” said Dr. Wiley. “With a fourth-wave surge of the virus caused by the spread of the Delta variant, hospitals are seeing a dramatic increase in hospitalizations and critical illness in children.”
Additionally, physicians are seeing a growing number of children contracting both COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV, when contracted alone, can be life-threatening in babies, children and older adults, and combined with COVID-19 infection results in severe illness among children.
“Measures taken early in the pandemic to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, including mask-wearing and social distancing, also slowed the spread of RSV,” Dr. Wiley explained. “Now, with fewer people taking precautions and a slowing vaccination rate, both viruses are gaining ground.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourage everyone age 12 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Previous clinical trials of the vaccine – which involved thousands of volunteers – showed the vaccine was safe for teens ages 16 and older. After reviewing more data, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) expanded authorization for younger teens.
Parents may be concerned that the vaccine may cause their children to develop myocarditis or pericarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle or outer lining, respectively. While this has occurred in a few cases, mainly to teen and young adult males ages 16 and older, most patients who sought treatment have responded well and recovered quickly, according to the CDC.
“These incidents are very rare, and the risks associated with contracting the COVID-19 virus are far greater than any risk of getting the vaccine,” Dr. Wiley said. “COVID-19 also can cause myocarditis or pericarditis, and at a much higher rate than associated with the vaccine.”
The risk of complications caused by the COVID-19 virus seems to be growing for children, teens and young adults as the Delta variant surges. In addition to severe respiratory illness, COVID-19 can cause a condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) which is a severe condition that causes inflammation in different body parts, including heart, lungs, brain, skin, eyes, and gastrointestinal organs. “Long COVID” is also being seen in children, causing long-term fatigue, shortness of breath, and poor exercise tolerance, among other issues.
“The variant is spreading quickly and the unvaccinated are those that are hit the hardest,” Dr. Wiley said. “That includes children under the age of 12 and older children who have not yet receive the vaccine.”
Vaccination is vital for those who are eligible, particularly when kids are returning to in-person classes at schools that may have varying policies regarding mask-wearing, she said.
Common side effects from the vaccines, which children can experience as well, can include fatigue, headache, fever and chills. Most side effects diminish within 24-48 hours. All COVID-19 vaccines work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease.
“The side effects of the vaccine are minimal compared with the potential danger that contracting the COVID-19 virus can cause to our children and to ourselves,” Dr. Wiley said. “Help your children to be less vulnerable, and get vaccinated yourself as well.”
To ensure coordination and continue ThedaCare’s long history of delivering vaccines safely and effectively, the system will continue offering COVID-19 vaccines at select Primary Care and Pediatric Clinics, while continuing to offer doses at designated vaccine clinics.
For more information about COVID-19, schedule a vaccine, find a testing location, view online care options and community resources, as well as other important news and updates, please visit thedacarecovid19.org/.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.