Mid-South COVID-19 cases surge in children as work underway on vaccine for those under 12

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 5:18 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Medical experts in the Mid-South say we are in a period of high transmission.

“We have seen a significant surge in cases roughly for the last four weeks, again roughly corresponding to the time when school got in, although it may have started a few days before,” said Dr. Ron McCullers, pediatrician in-chief for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

Shelby County is reporting 33,143 people under the age of 18 have been vaccinated.

McCullers says about 7 percent of children in Tennessee are fully vaccinated out of the 20 percent who are eligible, and those numbers are reflecting in the number of hospitalizations.

“We’re seeing about three times the number of hospitalizations that we saw during our peak during the winter. I think related to low vaccination status here in Tennessee, and many of those kids are very sick,” McCullers said.

Friday, the FDA announced it’s “working around the clock” to support the approvals of COVID-19 vaccines for children under 12. Back in March, Pfizer and BioNTech began a three-phase study for children 11 years of age and younger.

St. Jude has said it’s participating in this clinical trial, but could not give specifics on where the trial stands.

McCullers hopes dosing is specified in the trial data. His colleague, Dr. Sandra Arnold, chief of pediatric infectious diseases, says trials like this one cannot be sped up.

“They have to watch children for a certain amount of time to see the adverse events. They have to do this very carefully. There are already a lot of hesitant or skeptical people out there and no corner can be cut,” Arnold said.

Pfizer’s CEO told NBC News it’s expected that studies on children ages 5 to 11 be completed in September and that the company would then submit the data to the FDA.

Pfizer expects data on toddlers up to age four soon afterward.

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