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Two children die from Omicron variant six days apart

Pediatrician: Mississippi vaccination rates for children 5 to 11 rank among lowest in nation
Two children die from Omicron variant six days apart
Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 11:02 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - For the second time in less than a week, a Mississippi child has died from COVID-19, bringing the state’s pediatric death toll to eleven over the last twenty-three months from the virus.

While most of those deaths came as a result of the Delta variant last year, new information from researchers in South Africa shows greater hospitalizations among young children from the virus than any other variant, meaning potentially more kids in Mississippi could follow suit.

The odds of a person infected with COVID-19 dying from the disease increase once they’re hospitalized, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has said in recent months.

“What we’ve really been seeing here at the pediatric clinic with Omicron is a lot of younger children getting infected. A lot of children in daycare, a lot of children in schools, and they are catching it from siblings, from parents, from other people. And so it’s really hard. It’s really sad,” said Dr. Anita Henderson, a pediatrician who practices in Hattiesburg.

Henderson, who serves as president of Mississippi’s chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said they’re learning through research why children seem to be more susceptible to the virus and hospitalization.

“[Omicron] more so than previous variants affects the small airways, the upper airway,” Henderson said. “That’s why we are seeing things like croup in babies and children with COVID. Because previous variants may have affected lower airways, primarily with COVID lungs and COVID pneumonia. This one seems to have a little bit more predilection for affecting upper airways.”

Every one of the 11 Mississippi children who died from COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

Henderson said that means future deaths from the virus are preventable.

“What we saw during the Delta surge was that when local families were infected, when local parents or children unfortunately passed away, it really underscored the importance of vaccinations. And that’s when we saw our vaccine rates rise. So unfortunately, sometimes parents have to hear those bad stories or those negative consequences,” Henderson said.

Henderson said 13 percent of children five to eleven years old have had one dose of the vaccine, indicating Mississippi has one of the lowest vaccination rates for that age group in the nation.

When unvaccinated children contract COVID-19, Henderson said it could lead to serious health issues like diabetes.

After a COVID infection, researchers found the body’s immune system would sometimes target pink pancreatic cells, which then can lead to the disease.

Henderson said research from the Journal of the American Medical Association showed a 57 percent increase in Type 1 diabetes among children in just the first year of the pandemic.

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