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By Margaret Herbst
If you have children under age 5, the odds are great that you are holding off on getting them a COVID-19 vaccination.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in June approved COVID vaccines for children ages 6 months to 4 years, about 15.2 million in this age group have not been vaccinated. The good news is that 11% of this age group—about 1.9 million children—have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The end result is that millions of unvaccinated babies and children have returned to day care and school settings following winter break just as health experts are voicing concerns about a new, highly transmissible COVID subvariant nicknamed Kraken.
Officially known as XBB.1.5, Kraken is an Omicron subvariant with increased transmissibility and some ability to evade vaccines and therapies, posing serious health risks including severe illness and hospitalization for kids and more vulnerable adults who those kids may infect.
“Studies have shown that infants, children and teens are equally capable of carrying and replicating high levels of live SARS-CoV-2 in their respiratory secretions,” said Chethra K. Muthiah, MD, Infectious Diseases and Co-Medical Director of Infection and Prevention Control for NorthShore University HealthSystem. “Vaccines are still the best defense against this current variant. They can prevent severe COVID illness and spreading infections to vulnerable adults while building population immunity to potentially curb the emergence of new variants. They can help kids return more fully to normal at school and activities.”
In general, unvaccinated clusters of people are a safe haven for viruses to thrive, mutate and endure.
“Groups of unvaccinated individuals are breeding opportunities, and not just for COVID, but also for other diseases, like measles,” Dr. Muthiah said. “Beyond COVID 19, a growing vaccine hesitancy in the United States is opening the door for the resurgence of diseases that were previously controlled or eradicated with vaccinations.”
The key takeaway? Dr. Muthiah said you can protect your kids and others from COVID-19 by following the lead of nearly two million children who have already received their first dose—and who have helped to prove COVID vaccines are safe and effective.
Scheduling COVID vaccinations for your family is fast and easy via your NorthShoreConnect patient portal. For information, ask your physician or visit NorthShore’s COVID-19 Vaccines & Boosters page.