An Oshawa father is cautioning families about the dangers of COVID-19 among children following the hospitalization of his nine-year-old daughter who was infected with the delta variant.
David Byrne told CBC Radio's Metro Morning Wednesday that the experience was "terrifying."
"At one point she said to me, 'daddy, am I going to die?'"
While he kept telling his daughter Rosalie that she was going to be fine, he said "there was at least a day or two where I really couldn't answer that question honestly."
Rosalie was hospitalized twice for a total of seven days, according to Byrne.
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The vast majority of children under 12 are not eligible to receive the vaccine in Ontario, making them more susceptible to the highly transmissible variant than those who have been fully vaccinated.
As of last Friday, Canadians aged 19 and younger accounted for about 2 per cent of all COVID-19 hospitalizations nationwide, according to Health Canada data.
In the U.S., children and teens 17 and under make up about 2.4 per cent of all hospitalizations, and a new single-day high of 1,902 were in hospital on Saturday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Byrne says 23 days ago, his daughter started experiencing symptoms like a fever, cough and shortness of breath.
"Essentially each day we woke up, there was a new symptom," Byrne said.
Rosalie was hospitalized due to gastrointestinal issues a week after she first started showing symptoms.
Byrne recalls Rosalie vomiting almost every time she took a sip of water.
He says that while she's now recovering with most of her symptoms gone, she still has very low energy and can't complete a walk around the block.
Most children with COVID-19 still have mild symptoms: doctor
Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health, says while people should be worried about the delta variant, the "majority" of children who contract COVID are still ending up with mild symptoms such as a runny nose.
She says she doesn't believe Canada will match the high cases of COVID-19 among children and teens that southern parts of the U.S. are seeing, because there are more vaccinated adults in Canada.
"I think that we're going to see more kids getting sick, sicker than before, probably. But not every second kid's going to end up in the hospital," Banerji said.
Byrne says he and his wife are both fully vaccinated and believes Rosalie caught the virus in a masked visit to the park.
He hopes his family's story can be a "precautionary tale" for more people to get vaccinated and take steps to protect themselves against the delta variant.
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"This might be the time that you recognize that the virus is changing and it's impacting people and especially our most vulnerable people like children, especially young children, in a much more severe way," Byrne said.
With schools reopening in a few weeks, Byrne said he wants to see a vaccine mandate for teachers.
The Ministry of Education on Tuesday said it intends to implement a vaccination status disclosure policy for publicly funded school board employees and staff in private schools and licensed child-care settings.
As for Rosalie, her father says she might not go back to school in-person in September as doctors told him she'll be more susceptible to other infections such as the cold and flu as she continues her recovery from COVID-19.
"That's something I obviously hadn't thought about," Byrne said.
"It means that our life is going to be really different in the fall than what we expected."