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94% of SC kids ages 5-11 not fully vaccinated, putting them at risk of COVID Christmas spike

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Published: Dec. 24, 2021 at 7:34 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - This Christmas, COVID-19 is the gift that no child is asking to get.

But with 94 percent of children in South Carolina ages 5-11 not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as omicron is spreading through the state, there is a risk infection is coming whether they are ready or not.

“This is not a benign illness, and this is not something we should be taking lightly,” said pediatrician Dr. Deborah Greenhouse.

Greenhouse advised families with small children to do their own risk assessment before gathering for the holidays.

She said they need to consider everyone’s vaccination status, recent COVID test results, comfort with wearing a mask indoors, and ability to celebrate outside.

However, she said just because children often experience more mild illness compared to adults when infected with the coronavirus, there is still a risk.

“Most of them have mild symptoms, cough, congestion, runny nose, fever, body aches, but some of them do not,” Greenhouse said. “I had a patient in the hospital just last week with COVID who had significant symptoms and was hospitalized for a couple days. She got out, she will recover, but she was in the hospital and got COVID and she actually had her first vaccine scheduled for the week after she got COVID.”

The midlands doctor said parents are starting to ask more questions about the vaccine but are concerned after seeing false information about potential side effects.

“I’ve had parents concerned because someone told them that if you get the vaccine, you can shed the vaccine and you can spread the vaccine to other people. Absolutely not true. I’ve had folks say if you get the vaccine you will spread live virus to other people. I’ve had someone today still concerned about the myth that the vaccine impacts fertility down the road, which is totally unfounded,” Greenhouse said.

Yet, she is happy to answer these questions and dispel rumors because COVID-19 isn’t going away in 2022.

“They are seeing the writing on the wall, ‘Wow, the holidays are going to end and my child is going back to school, then what?’ Then what is if the child isn’t vaccinated it is quite likely that your child is going to be exposed to COVID and may very well catch COVID,” she said.

And it’s not just physical health parents should be keeping an eye out for, according to medical experts. Pediatricians are cautioning parents to be on the lookout for signs that their child may be struggling with their mental health.

According to the SC Department of Mental Health, suicide attempts among 10-14-year-olds have consistently increased over the past few years.

In addition, calls relating to self-harm made to EMS services are up among every age group in the state.

Experts say to detect mental health struggles among children it’s important to look for changes in behavior, outbursts, changes in appetite, and to never be afraid to ask a child if they are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

Mental health professionals say studies have shown that asking someone about suicidal thoughts doesn’t increase the risk of them attempting it.

However, there are resources and help available for anyone who is experiencing the crisis.

If you or someone you know is struggling this holiday season there is hope and resources available.

You can text HOPE4SC to 741-741 to text with a trained crisis counselor or call (800) 273-TALK (8255) to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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