As new COVID-19 cases surge, booster for kids comes just in time, expert says

With new COVID-19 cases in Illinois more than doubling in May compared to April, the likely approval of a booster shot for children ages 5 to 11 this week is perfect timing, experts said Tuesday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer Inc.'s third shot for youngsters Tuesday, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is expected to follow suit Thursday.

Locally, "we are seeing an increase in pediatric cases both of COVID as well as non-COVID illnesses now - fortunately they're largely milder respiratory cases," pediatrician Dr. Michael Bauer said.

"Those (children) that are not vaccinated at all have a higher risk of getting sicker, similar to what we saw with adults," added Bauer, Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital medical director.

"The protection against infection has dropped (over time) in children that have been vaccinated but it does continue to provide protection against severe illness especially compared to those that are unvaccinated."

As the superinfectious COVID-19 variant BA.2 surges, new cases statewide jumped from an average of 2,470 in April to 5,246 in May as of Tuesday, or a 112% increase, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data.

The tally, however, doesn't capture the total new infection spread because of the prevalence of home testing.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations are up, but at a slower pace than cases. The average number of COVID-19 patients in Illinois hospitals was 558 in April and 855 in May as of Monday, a 53% spike.

Neither new cases nor hospitalizations are near highs reached this winter during the omicron outbreak.

Children and teenagers comprise the largest share of Illinois COVID-19 cases, or 10%, according to IDPH records.

The sampling of 5 to 11 year-olds Pfizer studied for booster shot effects was small but "the potential promising thing ... is there was a fairly large increase in the neutralizing antibodies against omicron after this booster," Bauer said.

"What remains to be seen, is how long does that last?"

New cases of COVID-19 reached 5,327 Tuesday with 14 more people dying from the respiratory disease, the IDPH reported.

Patients in hospital with COVID-19 came to 1,092 as of Monday night.

On Monday, 9,994 more COVID-19 shots were administered. The seven-day average is 14,325.

So far, 8,760,614 people have been fully vaccinated or 69.1% of Illinois' 12.7 million population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC defines fully vaccinated as two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson's.

Total cases statewide stand at 3,231,524 and 33,724 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.

COVID-19 hospitalizations up 12.5% this week, 45 more deaths

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