MADISON (WKOW) -- Officials with Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC) said there's concern over a spike in COVID-19 cases among those under 18 and a need for teenagers who are eligible for vaccination to do so.
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On Thursday, the agency's director, Janel Heinrich, said recent data shows the county's COVID-19 infection rate trend balancing between remaining steady and slightly increasing.
But Heinrich said the concerning outlier to that trend is the infection rate among those under 18.
"In the past two weeks, 21% of all new COVID diagnoses have been in those under the age of 18, in comparison to the entire duration of the pandemic, where we saw those under 18 represent only 13% of all cases," Heinrich said. "This change is not the result of having more of our adults vaccinated."
Heinrich said the past two weeks bear that out.
"One-hundred-twenty-three diagnoses in our younger community members," she said. "Two weeks before that, we saw only 70 children in this age range diagnosed with COVID."
With a continued pause in Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses, Heinrich says a unique opportunity will soon present itself in Dane County for teenagers who are vaccine-eligible—16 and older—to get vaccinated.
"We have over 7,000 Pfizer first doses to give next week and because we are exclusively using the Pfizer vaccine next week, this is a great time to get your 16-year-old or your 17-year-old vaccinated, as this is the only vaccine authorized for this age group," Heinrich said.
With children's growing vulnerability statistically to COVID-19 infections, helath officials believe it is imperative that parents, caretakers, coaches and others get vaccinated to decrease the risk of disease transmission to the young.
Heinrich said COVID-19 hospitalizations in Dane County have not ticked up, with 32 current hospital patients.
Heinrich also said Dane County has reached 50.1% of its vaccine eligible population to receive a first dose.
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