COVID now 6th-leading cause of death in kids 5-11, SC Health Dept. says

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control will discuss Tuesday night’s...
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control will discuss Tuesday night’s emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in children during its weekly briefing.(Drew Aunkst)
Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 9:30 AM EDT|Updated: Nov. 3, 2021 at 7:44 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said the state has already received some 60,000 pediatric doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and more are on the way.

Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly said the state was notified by federal officials that it would receive 152,000 pediatric doses during the first week and said they expect to receive the remaining doses by Friday.

Kelly said she understands that some parents will face “a difficult decision” over whether to vaccinate their children and encourages them to seek “valid, factual information” from their child’s pediatrician or their own doctor.

“Please don’t let social media debates, self-proclaimed experts or unfounded online resources influence this important decision,” she said.

Kelly the state has seen more than 56,000 cases of COVID-19 in children ages 5-11 to date and called the Pfizer vaccine “an incredible tool” that can help stop that number from rising.

“COVID-19 nationally has become the sixth-leading cause of death for this age group,” Kelly said. She said the Delta variant hit young people very hard, harder than the original strain.

A DHEC spokesperson said on Thursday that Kelly’s claim that COVID-19 was the sixth-leading cause of death among young children came from a Kaiser Family Health Foundation analysis of death data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The analysis found that in January, August and September, COVID-19 was the sixth-leading cause of death of children in the age group 5-14 in the United States. Since January, COVID-19 ranked as low as the 13th-leading cause of death and as high as the sixth-leading for children of that age group, the analysis found.

The Kaiser analysis did not specify the five causes of death ahead of COVID-19.

A CDC death data report, meanwhile, placed the total number of COVID-19-associated deaths among children 5-11 from Oct. 3, 2020, through Oct. 2, 2021, against a chart showing the total number of deaths from other causes.

That data appears to have been compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics for 2019. But when September’s death toll in children 5-11 is compared against the totals, the comparison places COVID-19 as tied for the eighth-leading cause of death:

RankCause of deathTotal
2Malignant neoplasms525
3Congenital malformations/deformations/chromosomal abnormalities274
4Assault (homicide)207
5Diseases of the heart115
6Chronic lower respiratory diseases107
7Influenza and pneumonia84
8 (tie)Intentional self-harm (suicide)66
8 (tie)COVID-1966

The Kaiser report also found, based on available CDC data, that COVID-19 was the number one cause of death for people age 35-54 for the month of Sepetmber, DHEC said.

Parents can now sign their children up for vaccine

The dose for children ages 5-11 is 10 micrograms, a third of the 30-microgram dose for adults and adolescents, she said. The vaccine requires two shots three weeks apart.

Kelly said parents can now sign up to have their children vaccinated by calling the location where their child receives their routine vaccinations or flu shots. Some providers, she said, are already able to give the vaccine.

For children who have already had COVID-19 and have recovered, Kelly said is still recommended that they get vaccinated.

“The level of natural immunity after infection varies considerably and is lower in people who had mild disease or who were asymptomatic compared to those who had experienced severe disease,” she said.

Studies in the United States and in other countries have shown a person with a prior infection can cut their risk of re-infection in half by getting vaccinated, she said.

DHEC will partner with the state Department of Education to offer vaccine clinics at any schools interested in having them.

She said there is good evidence the Pfizer vaccine is “safe and effective in older age groups and will be so in this younger age group as well.”

She also said it is safe to vaccinate younger children against COVID and the flu at the same time.

“Now that we’re coming into flu season, I think it’s so important to get those vaccinations in before we really start to get see flu circulating,” she said. “The only recommendation would be the only caution would be give them in different places. So don’t give them, for example, in the same arm.”

U.S. health officials on Tuesday gave the final signoff to Pfizer’s kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opens a major expansion of the nation’s vaccination campaign to children as young as 5.

The announcement by CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky came only hours after an advisory panel unanimously decided Pfizer’s shots should be opened to the 28 million youngsters in that age group.

With authorities promising enough vaccine doses to protect the nation’s 28 million kids ages 5-11, pediatricians’ offices, pharmacies, hospitals and schools were poised to begin the shots as early as Wednesday.

In a release, DHEC says they support the approval and are “excited to work with vaccine providers” in providing access for children in the 5-11 age group.

DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer says research has shown that the vaccine is safe and effective for the age group.

“Approval of the Pfizer vaccine for ages 5-11 is a major step forward for South Carolina and the rest of our nation in our fight against COVID-19,” Simmer said. “We want people to know that a great deal of research and analysis went into the approval of the vaccine for this age group. This research has shown that the vaccine is safe and effective in children ages 5 –11. The Food and Drug Administration and the CDC would not have signed off on using this vaccine with this age group without this research, and the same goes for DHEC. We are encouraged by this news and are excited to offer this vaccine to the 436,352 South Carolinian children in this age group.”

Health officials say planning for the vaccine rollout begin last week in anticipation of the approval. The federal government informed South Carolina that 152,100 doses of the vaccine would be received in the state during the first week of availability. DHEC says more than 60,000 doses have been already been delivered with the remaining doses expected on Wednesday and Friday.

The pediatric doses are being distributed to more than 250 vaccine providers in the state including pediatricians and family practice providers, DHEC said. They say vaccines will also be distributed to many hospital systems, state health departments and federally qualified health centers, but it is best to contact providers for availability prior to visiting a site.

Children who get vaccinated before Thanksgiving will be fully covered by Christmas.

Copyright 2021 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.