DPHHS: 19 children infected with omicron in the state but so far no hospitalizations

The state reported 1,194 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday along with 146 active hospitalizations.

By: - January 6, 2022 6:05 pm

Alden DeChellis, 5, gets a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination at a vaccination clinic for kids at the fairgrounds on Nov. 14, 2021 in Livingston, Montana. (William Campbell | Getty Images)

Hospitalizations among children have been soaring in parts of the country as the omicron variant continues to fuel spikes in cases across the U.S.; while that hasn’t happened in Montana yet, a leading Montana pediatrician says it is likely on its way.

“Montana is a little bit behind the rest of the U.S. in terms of the omicron surge. I think it’s coming, but we are just at the beginning of seeing an increase in hospitalizations, and we don’t have a lot of children hospitalized like other places in the country,” said Dr. Lauren Wilson, vice president of The Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “But there is no reason to expect anything different to happen here, and we might see more than other states because our vaccinations rates are lower.”

As of Thursday, there have been 131 omicron variant cases detected in 29 Montana counties with an age range from 4 to 95, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. And omicron accounted for 79% of cases sequenced the last week of December, according to DPHHS.

“Through our variant surveillance efforts, there have been 19 children infected with omicron and no child hospitalizations,” a DPHHS spokesman said via email.

The state reported 1,194 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, along with 146 active hospitalizations. And the state’s death toll now sits at 2,916, according to the COVID-19 dashboard. Nationally, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, between Dec. 29, 2021, and Jan. 4, 2022, an average of 766 children we hospitalized every day, and the week before, the average was 383.

Health professionals continue emphasizing vaccination to avoid being hospitalized or spreading the virus. In Montana, 12% of 5-11-year-olds are fully vaccinated; and 37% of 12-17-year-olds are fully vaccinated, according to DPPHS. Statewide, 53% of eligible Montanans are fully vaccinated.

“It’s extremely rare to have a child who is vaccinated to be hospitalized. The majority of pediatric hospitalizations are among those who are too young to be vaccinated or the ones who are unvaccinated,” Wilson said.

But children less than the age of 5 still cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Per the CDC, everyone 5 years of age and older are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination, and everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot.

To help with vaccination efforts in the state, the Montana Medical Association and nine other health care and public health associations announced the launch of the “Your Best Shot MT” campaign to help answer parents’ vaccine questions and increase COVID-19 vaccination rates in Montana.

The campaign will aim to provide Montana parents and guardians with reliable, up-to-date information and data about getting Montana’s children and adolescents ages 5 and up vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The vaccine has been very well studied. It is incredibly safe. It is much riskier to get COVID-19 than the vaccine. The vaccine is remarkably effective. In fact, it is one of our most effective vaccines in children. I think that all eligible kids should get vaccinated against COVID,” said Dr. Collette Chorney, a pediatrician in Butte, in a press release announcing the campaign.

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Keith Schubert
Keith Schubert

Keith Schubert is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. Keith was born and raised in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019. He has worked at the St.Paul Pioneer Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and most recently, the Asbury Park Press, covering everything from local craft fairs to crime and courts to municipal government to the Minnesota state legislature. In his free time, he enjoys cheering on Wisconsin sports teams and exploring small businesses. He can be reached by text or call at 406-475-2954 .