Kids’ COVID cases rising; more vaccine on the way

Georgia’s recent spike in COVID-19 cases includes a comparable rise in the number of children getting the disease.

“These aren’t necessarily cases linked to a [school] setting, but rather cases among children who are in these age groups,’’ said Amber Schmidtke, who tracks Georgia COVID trends in the Daily Digest.

College-aged adult and young adults have a similar case rate increase over the past two weeks, Schmidtke said.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has also experienced the rise in cases.

Children’s Egleston hospital

“We are currently caring for 16 children in our hospital system,’’ a Children’s spokeswoman, Allyson Wright, said Monday.

“The number of children in our care with COVID-19 has fluctuated throughout the pandemic, but we are seeing an increase in numbers, likely due to holiday gatherings and travel,’’ Wright said.

Rates of illness and spread of the virus in children follow patterns like those of other age groups, she noted, although overall there is less severe illness and death among minors than among adults.

Very few deaths have occurred in the under-18 age group, according to state data.

Dr. Ben Spitalnick, a Savannah pediatrician, linked the increase in cases to the post-Thanksgiving effect.

“Unfortunately, it was just as expected, starting right about two weeks after Thanksgiving break,’’ he said Monday.

“In the youngest patients, the symptoms are usually minimal or none at all,’’ he said. “For our teens, we are seeing symptoms, generally cough and body aches, much like you would see with the flu. We expect this to only increase over the next few weeks, as a result of breaks from school leading to breaks from safe COVID practices.’’

(The below graphic of Georgia cases is from the Daily Digest.)

Given the likelihood of more social gatherings and travel over the Christmas holidays, Spitalnick said, many pediatricians expect the surge after Christmas and New Year’s to be as big or bigger than the current one.

“Our teens are quite eager for social interaction, including large unmasked events for New Year’s Eve,’’ he added.

More vaccine headed here

The state’s first shipments of Moderna’s vaccine are expected to arrive Monday through Wednesday, consisting of 174,000 doses, all sent directly to medical providers, officials from the Georgia Department of Public Health said.

The FDA granted emergency use authorization to Moderna for its COVID-19 vaccine Friday, making it the second such vaccine approved in the United States, after Pfizer’s.

The state already has received an allocation of the Pfizer vaccine, and Public Health said it’s expecting a second one — 60,000 doses — from the company this week. About 20,000 of those will be set aside for nursing homes to begin vaccination next week.

Most long-term care facilities in Georgia are working with CVS and Walgreens on administering the shots to residents and staff.

The 10,000 doses of vaccine remaining from the first Pfizer allocation of 84,000 will arrive at Georgia facilities Monday, officials said..

There are more than 537,000 health care workers in Georgia, and as of Friday, the state had received about 72,000 doses of vaccine.

“With the expected Moderna shipment and second allocation of Pfizer vaccine, that number will more than quadruple over the next several days, providing greater access to vaccine for more healthcare workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities,’’ state officials said in a press release. “This will help ensure that vaccine is administered first to those health care workers in direct contact with COVID-19 patients or those who handle COVID-19 materials.’’

Public Health said it’s launching a vaccine dashboard that will track the number of health providers enrolled to give vaccines, the allocations and shipments of vaccine from manufacturers, and doses administered.

The dashboard will reflect the previous day’s totals. It can be found on the DPH website at

Testing of a vaccine for U.S. teenagers could be complete by midyear, but the timing is so tight that many of them will probably still be unvaccinated when the fall 2021 semester begins, the AJC reported.

Meanwhile, no vaccine studies for children of elementary school age have even begun in this country, so widespread immunization for that group is a distant prospect, the newspaper reported.