Common link among children who’ve died of COVID-19 in Washington state
Health officials in Washington say there’s a common link among the children who have died of COVID-19 in the state: being unvaccinated, and having underlying conditions.
“The obvious things like underlying immune suppression — so cancer and certainly diabetes,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, Washington state’s acting Chief Science Officer, on Thursday. “Some of the other things in the older age group are things like obesity.”
Dr. Lindquist said that’s why it’s critical to get a vaccine approved for younger children.
Of the state’s 11 pediatric COVID deaths, eight have been in the 14 to 19 age range. Children ages 12 and older are eligible to receive the two-dose Pfizer vaccine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer’s vaccine for use in people ages 16+ in August. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved under the FDA’s emergency authorization for children ages 12-16.
The timeline for an approved vaccine for younger children is not yet clear. Dr. Anthony Fauci told the “Today Show” last week that there was a “reasonable chance” the vaccine would be ready by mid- to late-fall or early winter, according to the New York Times. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s timeline was later, telling CNN that authorization may not come until the end of the year.
The state Department of Health said Thursday that about 48% of Washington’s 16- to 17-year-olds are fully vaccinated, and about 41% of 12- to 15-year-olds are fully vaccinated.
This comes as schools welcome back students in-person this week and next under a mask mandate and detailed COVID safety protocols that address distancing and ventilation. Additionally, educators are required to be vaccinated by Oct. 18, or risk losing their job.
Meanwhile, King County is reporting that COVID-19 case rates have not risen in the last two weeks, but are still near record levels.
“Over the last seven days, we’ve seen an average of almost 600 cases reported per day — a nearly 500% increase in cases compared to this time last year,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County, said in a news conference Thursday to announce the county’s mask mandate will be expanded to include large, outdoor events.
Dr. Duchin also said he is worried about the county’s increasing death rate, largely caused by the delta variant.
Pierce County is reporting increasing deaths as well. Cases there and in Skagit County are at an all-time high.
KIRO Radio’s Nicole Jennings and the KIRO Newsdesk contributed to this report.