Omicron outbreak annoys parents of children too young for injections

After dinner with the Grammy. Birthdays. Meeting other kids in the park. Parents of children too young to be vaccinated face difficult choices as the surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant makes every encounter seem risky.

For Maine business owner Erin Connolly, the most painful decision concerns Madeleine, her 3-year-old daughter and Connolly’s mother, who takes care of the girl one day a week when she is not attending preschool.

This is a cherished time to make cookies, go to the library, or just hang out. But the energetic little girl resists wearing the mask, and given that the highly contagious variant is spreading at a breakneck speed, Connolly says she wonders how long it can last, “and when it seems too unsafe.”

West Bath’s Connolly said she is less worried about Madeleine and her vaccinated 6-year-old son getting the virus than about the impact illness and separation will have on grandparents. But she is also concerned that her vaccinated parents are contracting infectious diseases.

While health experts say omicron appears to cause less serious illness and result in fewer hospitalizations, its rapid spread indicates that it is far more infectious than other options. Almost 718,000 COVID cases were reported on Tuesday, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Omicron is currently the culprit in over 90% of US cases, a dizzying increase from less than 10% two weeks ago.

“The sheer number of infections due to its deep transmission would mean many more children will become infected,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday at a White House briefing.

According to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Association of Children’s Hospitals, cases of COVID among children and adolescents in the United States have nearly doubled in the last two weeks of December, to nearly 326,000 in the past week alone.

The omicron-fueled spike in the number of children has also hit hospitals at a record number, with an average of 672 children aged 17 and under admitted to hospitals with coronavirus during the week of December 27, 2021 to January 2, 2022. – more than twice as much as in the previous week. However, children still make up a small percentage of those hospitalized.

Fauci, the country’s chief infectious disease physician, said surrounding children with vaccinated adults is one way to keep them from getting the virus. Health officials also reiterate that face masks prevent transmission, and putting them on for children 2 and older in public and in groups can help keep them safe.

Connolly, 39, and her mother had a hard Tuesday morning about the dilemma.

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“Will Madeleine be wearing a mask?” her mother asked. “I said, ‘We’re trying, but I don’t know if she’ll do it,” Connolly recalled. “I said,“ Does that mean Thursday with the Grammy is going away? “She said,” I’m not sure yet, “Connolly said, holding back tears.

Parents who had hoped the new year would bring the COVID vaccine for young children fell flat when Pfizer announced last month that two doses did not offer the protection that children aged 2 to 4 had hoped.

The Pfizer study has been updated to give everyone under 5 years of age a third dose, with data expected around late March or early April, a company scientist told US officials on Wednesday.

Researchers were disappointed with the failure, said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, who leads Stanford University’s Pfizer vaccine study in children under 12.

Maldonado said she understands the frustration of parents with young children, but advises them to avoid unnecessary travel during the current surge and make sure their kindergartens, preschools and other care settings require masks and take other recommended precautions.

Watching the spread of the omicron, Honolulu resident Jacob Aki intends to abandon his 10-month-old son’s first birthday celebration. Celebrating this event is important in its native Hawaiian culture. The tradition goes back to the days before the measles vaccine was available, when reaching the first birthday was a feat. The family also scrapped plans to experience snow in Canada. Meanwhile, every cough and sniff is anxiety.

“Babies usually get sick at this age,” Aki said. “But with everything related to COVID … the alarm is high.”

Heather Cimellaro, a technology teacher in Auburn, Maine, says she is more concerned than ever about keeping her 3-year-old identical twin boys healthy. One has had health problems related to their premature birth and his family travels to Boston regularly to see a specialist.

“COVID can really thwart these plans,” Cimellaro said.

Cimellaro, 33, says Omicron has a rethink: running around with twins, visiting libraries, telling stories, even the preschools located in the senior health center. She worries that boys may contract COVID and pass it on to their “grandchildren.”

“It’s just intense anxiety,“ Am I doing the right thing? “, – she said. I am not an epidemiologist. I don’t know how dangerous it is for them. So it’s kind of like arguing with yourself. ”

Erin Stanley of Berrien Springs, Michigan, said she and her husband cut their social lives over the omicron to protect their three-year-old son, Ralph. They are both vaccinated and strengthened, but they worry that Ralph will get sick and spread the disease to his younger cousin, preschool classmates, grandparents and beloved great-grandmother.

They didn’t see their great-grandmother on Christmas Day and missed the festive hangout with other relatives.

“It was upsetting,” Stanley said. “We all really wanted it. It seemed risky. “

Stanley, 35, a chef at a popular organic farm, used to go shopping for Ralph’s groceries – a trip he was looking forward to and one of his few social interactions outside of preschool. But few buyers wear masks, she said, and that now seems too risky, too.

The shy little boy has had three recent panics and three negative COVID tests.

“Taking the smear was really traumatic for him,” Stanley said, adding that “virus” and “smear” are now part of his vocabulary.

“He repeats all the time:“ I don’t want to take a smear! “- she said. “If he gets a vaccine, we will definitely get it.”

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