COVID-19 cases among kids in B.C. saw highest rise among those 5 to 11 but are declining, health officials say

·3 min read
Health officials presented the latest epidemiological modelling on the coronavirus during a live news conference on Thursday. (Mike McArthur/CBC - image credit)
Health officials presented the latest epidemiological modelling on the coronavirus during a live news conference on Thursday. (Mike McArthur/CBC - image credit)

Children aged five to 11 in British Columbia had been contracting COVID-19 at higher rates compared with kids in other age groups, but an uptick in vaccination rates has helped reduce those numbers, health officials said Thursday.

The province says 550 cases were diagnosed between Oct. 26 and Nov. 1 from 14,295 total cases in that age group since the pandemic began.

One of those children went to hospital this week, and between Oct. 26 and Nov., one received critical care, health officials said, as they presented their latest epidemiological modelling during a live news conference.

A total of 56 children aged five and 11 have been admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in B.C. since the pandemic began and four of them required critical care.

The province says cases among kids aged nine to 11 rose the most a few weeks after the start of the school year.

However, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there have been no hospitalizations in fully vaccinated youth aged 12 to 17 since July.

"[The vaccine] is working extremely well. We've had very few cases and we've had no hospitalizations. That's important for us to think about as vaccines are now becoming available for the younger age group as well," she said.

Overall, cases rose the most in the Interior region between August and late September before declining, while the Northern Health region had a higher number of cases, she said.

Hospitalizations remain 'stubbornly high'

While more than 90 per cent of those 12 and older have received at least one shot of a vaccine, Henry said hospitalization rates have remained "stubbornly high."

Not only is the delta variant more contagious, she said, it is causing more severe illness, especially in younger people who are not vaccinated.

Unvaccinated people are 10 times more likely to get the virus, and 46 times more likely to die from it, she said.

"If we compare, for example, our cases and hospitalizations in people who are unvaccinated versus fully vaccinated, the difference is stark. This really is driven by the number of people who are becoming infected, who have not yet been vaccinated."

The province announced mandatory vaccinations last month for B.C.'s 30,000 public service workers. Employees who have not received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 22 will be placed on unpaid leave for three months, B.C. health officials said.

More than 3,300 workers in the province's health-care sector are already on unpaid leave because they were not immunized by the Oct. 26 deadline for mandatory vaccination for these workers.

Reproductive number of virus drops under 1

Meanwhile, Dr. Henry said the reproductive number of the COVID-19 virus has dropped below one in all regions for the first time in several months.

This means, on average, each new infection is spreading to fewer than one person, which suggests the decline in cases should continue.

"That's good news but it's just below one, which means that we have, right now, a fragile balance. We are going down slowly," Dr. Henry said.

"It is important for us to recognize that the things we're doing to prevent transmission ... these are all the things that are making a difference right now."

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