1/3 of teens in hospital with COVID-19 admitted to ICU, vaccines could provide relief

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A recent CDC study showing that COVID-19 cases in teens are becoming more severe is leading to concern.

“It is these findings within this publication, one that demonstrates the level of severe disease, even among youth, that are preventable, that force us to redouble our motivation to get our adolescents and young adults vaccinated,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

The CDC looked at COVID-19 data in teens hospitalized this spring. They found:

  • A third of teens were admitted into the ICU
  • 5% needed an invasive mechanical ventilator
  • 30% reported no previous underlying conditions

“Your child could be one of the kids who’s not at risk, but they might get sick with COVID. But they might get sick with COVID and certainly have we seen otherwise healthy children come in with COVID. So, that’s one thing. And the second thing is, even if your children don’t get sick, they can still transmit it to other people,” Smith said.

Scientists still don’t know what makes some children more at risk than others. In North Carolina, children make up fewer than 10 percent of people in the hospital and infected with COVID-19. The CDC is seeing a national increase in those numbers.

“The authors of the CDC study weren’t really sure why the cases seemed to increase. So, there was a slight decrease initially of the teenagers and an increase in the later months of that. And there’s a question of, could that be because of variants? Could that just be because people are opening up again, seeing each other, and perhaps going to spread more?” Smith said.

It’s why Smith said more teens need to take up the vaccine.

“Even though your child’s otherwise healthy, they can still get this disease. And there’s a safe and effective vaccine to protect them,” said Smith.

He believes the more children are vaccinated ahead of the next school year, the safer they’ll be.

“If we get our teenagers vaccinated, the likelihood of things getting worse in the fall is really, really low,” Smith said.

Do teens need permission for the COVID-19 vaccine?

Convincing parents continues to be an uphill battle. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found just 30 percent of parents said they would have their children vaccinated right away.

North Carolina does not require parental consent for the COVID-19 vaccine, but some providers do. North Carolina state law allows people younger than 18 to make certain health-care choices if they have “decisional capacity” to do so, meaning they understand health care needs and options and can make decisions about them.

If a child does not have consent from a parent or guardian, UNC officials said they’ll evaluate the child’s decisional capacity and discuss the risks and benefits.

Duke Health officials said they’ll welcome children 12 and older to get a COVID-19 vaccine with or without a parent. If, after talking with the child, the person giving the vaccine has doubts about the child’s decisional capacity and a team leader agrees, they will try to contact the parents.

Wake County officials told CBS 17 if a parent or guardian is not present with the child, they’ll try to contact them. If one can not be reached, staff will go over the vaccine information and assess whether the patient has understanding and decisional capacity. They said, per the state statute, they will consult with a physician on staff.

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