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COVID-19 cases hit highs among kids and babies in Josephine County

Josephine County Public Health is urging parents to get their kids vaccinated against COVID-19 because of high numbers of local pediatric COVID-19 cases. [Associated Press / file photo]
Health officials urge COVID-19 shots for kids

Josephine County Public Health officials are urging local parents and guardians to have their children vaccinated against COVID-19.

They said cases of the disease are prevalent among area youth.

Between Jan. 28 and Feb. 5, at least 58 Josephine County residents younger than 11 tested positive for COVID-19, including two babies, public health officials said.

For residents 19 and younger, COVID-19 cases reached a high of 254 for the week of Jan. 16-22, up from 21 during the week of Nov. 21-27, in Josephine County, public health officials said.

All people in Oregon 5 and older are eligible for a free COVID-19 vaccine. Those 12 and older are eligible for boosters five months after the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two months after the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Josephine County Public Health is urging parents and guardians to schedule a vaccination appointment as soon as possible for children 5 and older. Health officials are also advising adults to plan to vaccinate their younger children when doses for those ages are authorized.

“As hard as we try to protect our children, they are just as likely to be infected with COVID-19 as adults and can get very sick, experience short- and long-term health complications and spread the virus to others at school, day care or home,” said Dr. Kathy Mechling, Josephine County Public Health deputy health officer. “A free COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to help keep your children and your family healthy, especially now as the disease is prominent among our kids. The benefits are clear, and the risks associated with vaccinations and boosters are minimal.”

COVID-19 ranks as one of the top 10 causes of death for children ages 5-11, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“While the risk of severe illness or death in kids with COVID-19 is low when compared to other age groups, it is not zero,” Mechling said. “Nationwide, three children have died from COVID-19 every day since January.”

Vaccines for kids and babies younger than 5 aren’t yet approved, but research shows pregnant women who get vaccinated pass on protective antibodies to their babies.

The babies of mothers vaccinated with either the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy had a 61% reduced risk of being hospitalized with the virus up to six months after birth, according to a CDC study published this week.

Parents and guardians can visit co.josephine.or.us/COVID19 to schedule a vaccine appointment or call the Josephine County COVID-19 call center at 541-916-7030 to ask questions, schedule a vaccine appointment, schedule a testing appointment, schedule monoclonal antibody treatment or report a positive home test.