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COVID-19 vaccination rate for young adults continues to lag; other viruses affecting younger children

Gov. John Bel Edwards urges a return to mask-wearing indoors
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 7:05 PM CDT
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Nurse gives a patient a vaccine.
Nurse gives a patient a vaccine.(WLUC)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As COVID-19 cases climb rapidly in Louisiana a Tulane epidemiologist says the increase in hospitalizations is concerning and she warns young adults that they are not immune to getting very sick if they contract the virus.

Dr. Susan Hassig says it is clear the highly contagious Delta variant is driving the surge in new cases.

“I am quite sure it’s due to Delta. The numbers of cases that we’re seeing coming as quickly as they’re coming is very different than what we have seen in past experiences with this virus,” said Hassig.

And state officials say Louisiana’s vaccination rate has plenty of room for improvements as hospitalizations and deaths from the virus increase.

Hassig says the number of people needing hospitalization is of concern.

“The rise in hospitalizations is particularly concerning to me,” said Hassig.

Still, the rate of vaccinations among young adults continues to lag in Louisiana. According to the La. Department of Health’s online COVID-19 dashboard, only 11.1% of 18 to 29-year-olds have initiated a vaccine.

Hassig says state data shows young people are also getting the virus.

“The state health department dashboard has got infections by age group, and I think it would be really helpful perhaps if some of the 20- to 30-year-olds and 30- to 40-year-olds took a look at that and saw where they sit,” she said. “They are not invulnerable, they are not immune to outcomes that are really, really potentially dangerous, serious illness may not happen often but when you have many, many people infected there are going to be lots of people that wind up getting seriously ill. It’s just a numbers game.”

Children under age 12 are not eligible yet to be vaccinated and Dr. Anthony Hudson a general pediatrician at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans has advice for concerned parents as the coronavirus sickens more people.

“The safest things we can do right now is have proper handwashing and proper handwashing technique and this would be washing our hands for a minimum of 20 to 30 seconds with warm soapy water, and I think when we are in the indoor setting it is advisable to wear a face mask covering if you are age three or older,” said Hudson.

The hospital is seeing more hospitalizations and clinic visits for other types of viruses like RSV.

“We’re seeing quite a few cases, today alone I’ve seen maybe four or five in just my morning visits,” said Hudson. “We are overwhelmed even in the clinics going through or seeing patients with these commons respiratory illnesses, sore throats, rashes, we’ve really seen quite a bounce-back or a rebound in the number of these common viral or pediatric illnesses over the last one to two months and that has trickled over to the in-patient side.”

Governor John Bel Edwards advises everyone to wear masks indoors including vaccinated people.

And Hassig says masks will be especially important for kids in schools.

“I think that looking ahead to school indoor masking I think really needs to be part of the back-to-school regimen especially for the little kids,” she said.

Having a lot of the virus swirling in communities should be a concern for even vaccinated individuals according to public health officials.

No vaccine is 100% effective.

“If a vaccinated person is moving in a community where there is lots of virus, like there is now compared to a month ago, the likelihood that they’re going to encounter the virus is much more substantial and so anytime should encounter the virus you’ve got an opportunity to become infected,” said Hassig.

A spokesperson for LCMC Health which runs Children’s Hospital says LCMC’s nurse hotline has seen a tremendous increase in calls related to COVID. It is available to the public and not just patients at LCMC patients.

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