LA County health officials urge kids get COVID vaccine before holidays

Saying unvaccinated teens are nine times more likely to be infected with COVID-19, Los Angeles County health officials made another plea to parents Wednesday to get their children inoculated ahead of the holiday season.

According to the county Department of Public Health, COVID cases among school-aged children dropped by 30% between late September and late November, but unvaccinated kids aged 12-17 were far more likely to be infected than their vaccinated counterparts.

During the final two weeks of November, two children between 5 and 11 were hospitalized due to COVID, along with eight kids aged 12-17 — all of them unvaccinated, according to the county. The county had six confirmed cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, in October and four in November.

Overall, however, the county's COVID numbers among children remain low, despite having more than 1.5 million children attending in-person school.

"Although several parts of the country are seeing large waves of pediatric infections and hospitalizations, our experience in L.A. County has been different, with transmission decreasing here over the past two months and relatively low numbers of pediatric hospitalizations," county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "What we are continuing to see is that unvaccinated children are the ones getting severely ill with COVID infections and ending up in the hospital.

"Meanwhile, county schools remain a very safe place -- and in fact, we think it's because of the outstanding preventive work our school partners are doing that we are seeing so little severe illness in children," she said. "As we're headed into the winter holidays and children spend more time intermingling without schools' protective layers of consistent mask-wearing and other control strategies, their risk of infection is going to increase. The best way to get children ready for the holidays is to get them vaccinated as soon as possible."

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The county reported another 15 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, raising the overall death toll from the virus to 27,275.

Another 1,772 new cases were confirmed, giving the county a cumulative pandemic total of 1,540,200.

According to state figures, there were 667 COVID-19-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals as of Wednesday, up from 650 on Tuesday, continuing a gradual upward trend. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 151, up from 149 a day earlier.

The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 1.5% as of Wednesday.

According to the most recent figures, 83% of county residents aged 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 74% are fully vaccinated. Of all eligible residents aged 5 and over, 76% have received at least one dose, and 68% are fully vaccinated.

Black residents continue to have the lowest rate of vaccinated, with just 55% having received at least one dose. The rate is 60% among Latino/a residents, 73% among white residents and 82% among Asians.

According to the latest county figures, of the more than 6.1 million fully vaccinated people in the county, 80,445 have tested positive, or about 1.32%. A total of 2,680 vaccinated people have been hospitalized, for a rate of 0.044%, and 503 have died, for a rate of 0.008%.

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