COVID-related health concerns for children starting to surface

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, a regular speaker at the briefings.

Children have essentially been immune to COVID-19, as their age group has by far the fewest number of cases.

But Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said there are a growing number of alarming statistics involving the health of the children — as little as newborns — in New Jersey.

For starters, the number of children who have not been keeping up with their scheduled vaccinations during the pandemic is growing. Persichilli said vaccinations for those under 2 are down 40%, while vaccinations for those ages 2-18 is down 60%.

In another worrisome sign, nearly two dozen children have been hospitalized with Multi System Inflammatory Syndrome, a syndrome that almost always includes a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

Persichilli, speaking at the state’s daily COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, said both issues are a concern.

“Like the rest of the nation, New Jersey has seen a dramatic drop in vaccines doses ordered and administered between March and April 20 this year, as compared to same period last year,” she said.

“The need to protect against serious childhood diseases like whooping cough doesn’t disappear during the COVID-19 public health emergency. All child visits and vaccinations are essential services, and health-insured children are protected against preventable childhood diseases like tetanus, measles, mumps and influenza type B.”

Persichilli said vaccinations, especially for those 2 and under, need to be a priority. She offered guidelines for pediatricians, including:

  • Scheduling well visits in the morning, sick visits in the afternoon;
  • Collaborating with providers to identify alternate locations, which could be used for well visits;
  • Creating novel approaches, such as curbside vaccinations.

Persichilli noted that, last year, there were more than 1,200 cases of the measles in 31 states, including 19 in New Jersey.

She’s equally concerned about Multi System Inflammatory Syndrome, urging parents to seek medical care if they feel their kids may have it.

It has a number of symptoms, including fever, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, pink eye, swollen hands and feet as well as being sluggish and irritable and having enlarged lymph nodes.

The state has had 23 cases among children with ages between 1-18. All were hospitalized; 15 have been discharged.

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