Doctors urge adults in close contact with kids to get vaccinated, as cases spike in younger population

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- As COVID-19 trials continue in children, doctors say vaccinating people who are around children is a must. 

They say kids are a contributing factor in continuing community transmission.

In Milwaukee County, health officials say cases in children 18 and younger are trending significantly higher than the population as a whole.

"I think we're starting to realize that kids in close settings are actually gonna be a potential driver of ongoing outbreaks," said Dr. Jim Conway, infection diseases and vaccine expert at UW Health.

Milwaukee County is not only seeing increases cases, but also more hospitalizations in younger groups because of the new variant and the older populations having been vaccinated.

More than a third of the children hospitalized fall under the 0-4 age category followed by teens 15-17 making up a quarter of child hospitalizations.

"We are seeing more disease and more significant disease in younger populations," said Greenfield Health Department Health Officer Darren Rausch. 

"Specifically the B.1.1.7 variant, which is the dominant variant in the United States now, is more severe and is more contagious and is far more likely to land you in the hospital," said Dr. Ben Weston, medical director at the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

Doctors say vaccine trials in kids six months and older have been ongoing for the last year. Pfizer is pursuing emergency use authorization for kids ages 12-15. They say being able to vaccinate children will be critical in fighting the pandemic.

"I think that they all realize that we need to move as quickly as we can into these younger age groups," Dr. Conway said.

Whether you have healthy children or children with medical conditions, experts say the best way to protect them is by protecting yourself.

"Make sure you're not bringing the disease home to them and that's through getting vaccinated," Dr. Weston said. 

"Encouraging people that are now eligible to get vaccinated as quickly as they can so that when we get to the point where kids are approved, then there isn't gonna be a major logjam," added Dr. Conway.

Dr. Conway says with Pfizer awaiting emergency use, the hope is to begin immunizing young teens by early summer.

"The fall semester then can hopefully look pretty normal if we've got middle school and high school kids actually eligible and immunized," he said. 

Doctors are also encouraging parents of 16 and 17-year-olds to vaccinate their teens with the Pfizer vaccine.

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