Calgary pediatric doctors say they are bracing for an increasing number of kids becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 as community transmission rates grow.
Alberta Health says there are 12 children under the age of 18 hospitalized for COVID-19 in the province, including three in intensive care. Four of those children are in Calgary.
"The more community spread we have … that's when we're going to see that higher number of very sick children ending up in our intensive care unit, or very sick in our inpatient unit," says Dr. Michelle Bailey, a pediatrician at Alberta Children's Hospital and president of pediatrics with the Alberta Medical Association.
"While children have a lower percentage of chance of getting admitted to an inpatient bed or into a pediatric ICU, when we're going to see those very high numbers happening, we are going to be seeing increases in those admissions in ICU if we don't really change the course of our trajectory," she said.
Measures to curb community transmission are needed to prevent more kids from getting sick, Bailey says.
"This is our responsibility as a community, as a province, to actually protect our children, especially those who are unvaccinated, by actually doing things to reduce community spread."
Dr. Stephen Freedman, a pediatric emergency physician at the Alberta Children's Hospital and professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the University of Calgary, says the number of infections is going up almost daily.
The Alberta Children's Hospital is averaging approximately three children diagnosed with COVID every day, he says.
While children are not likely to become hospitalized or end up in intensive care, Freedman says it's about the bigger picture.
"It's about the size of the iceberg. The larger the iceberg, the bigger the tip of the iceberg that's floating above the water. And if the iceberg is the number of children infected with COVID, we will see more children who are severely infected. There is no doubt about that," he said.
Emergency departments are already busy this time of the year, Freedman says, and resources within the health-care system are stretched, including pediatric hospitals.
"We've had to allocate a lot of resources to support our adult colleagues as well, which has left quite a shortage in terms of physicians as well as nurses and other ancillary staff."