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Confusing Data, Conflicting Info on COVID Vaccine for Kids

Credit: University of Georgia

Data for vaccinations of children ages 5-11 in Clarke County were made available this week via the Georgia Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard; however, the data has been grouped by age in a way that does not give a complete picture of the 5-11 year old age category.

As of Nov. 19, 777 children ages 5-9, or 13.4%, in Clarke County had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Another 2,235 children ages 10-14 had received at least one dose, but the age grouping includes children ages 12 and up, who have been eligible to receive the vaccine for weeks now. Flagpole requested more detailed data through Georgia’s DPH Data Portal, but that request had not yet been met at press time.

For parents whose pediatricians are affiliated with Piedmont Healthcare, shots are being given at one main location locally, Piedmont Physicians Pediatric on Oglethorpe Avenue, on Thursdays between 12–4 p.m. To make an appointment, parents should contact their child’s primary care doctor. The Clarke County School District is continuing to offer the pediatric vaccine at elementary schools during the coming weeks. A list of the remaining school vaccination events, as well as a Vaccine Interest Survey, is available at Pediatric vaccines are also available at many local pharmacies. 

Parents continue to seek out information about the safety of the vaccine, said local pediatricians Gloria Chu and Carolina Hsu with Piedmont Physicians Pediatrics at the Oconee Health Campus. “They want to know about the safety of the vaccine, risks of the vaccine versus risks of COVID illness,” Chu and Hsu said in a joint response to questions via email. “A lot are scared because they hear misinformation on a news channel or social media and don’t know how to find accurate information. We want parents to know COVID vaccines are safe and effective. The COVID vaccine significantly reduces the chance of hospitalization and death from severe COVID illness. The benefits of the vaccine outweigh any rare serious side effects.

“If [your child does] not have any known allergies to any component of the COVID vaccines, GET IT,” they added. “Any risk of a side effect from the vaccines is small compared to side effects from getting a COVID infection, such as long haul symptoms, organ failure, MIS-C [multisystem inflammatory syndrome-children] or death.”

Vaccinations for Clarke County adults and children 12 and older actually decreased this week due to a data correction on the DPH vaccination dashboard. As of Nov. 19, 62,728 Clarke County residents, or 50%, had received at least one dose, and 57,413 residents, or 46%, had been fully vaccinated. The data showed a decrease of 308 residents with at least one dose and 476 that had been fully vaccinated compared to the previous week.

“We have addressed an issue within our system on how booster doses and additional doses [for immunosuppressed individuals] were being counted,” said Georgia DPH Director of Communications Nancy Nydam. “That has resulted in some corrections to numbers from the past couple of weeks, but has stabilized the data going forward.” As of Flagpole’s print deadline, there was no further clarification about how booster and additional doses are included in the data now or if there’s a new addition to the vaccine dashboard to account for the data.

There were 54 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 13 new positive antigen tests in Clarke County last week. To date, there have been 17,581 confirmed and 2,694 antigen cases. The seven-day moving average decreased from 9.3 on Nov. 12 to 7.4 Nov. 19.

While new cases have slowed, Clarke County residents are still being hospitalized for the virus. Last week, however, just three people were hospitalized, compared to nine the previous week. Additionally, two Clarke County residents died from COVID-19 last week. To date, 178 Athenians have died from COVID-19 and 791 have been hospitalized.

The number of regional patients hospitalized for Covid-19 went down last week from 44 patients, or 6.5% of all patients, on Nov. 12 to 33 patients, or 5.1% of all patients, as of Nov. 19. While hospitals have seen a steady increase in non-COVID patients in recent weeks, that number decreased by 70 to 613 patients last week. Intensive care bed capacity showed a slight improvement last week, with 62 patients occupying 89% of ICU beds, compared to 65 patients occupying 93% of beds on Nov. 12.

At UGA, there 29 new cases, according to self-reported data in the DawgCheck app for the week of Nov. 8-14. That’s up slightly from the prior week. Surveillance testing numbers decreased from 466 tests administered the previous week to 405 tests administered last week. There were 537 new vaccinations for the week at the University Health Center.