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COVID-19 vaccinations soon available for children, county still seeing ‘very high’ cases

By Bob Conrad

COVID-19 cases continue to exceed state and national recommended levels needed to loosen restrictions, such as mask requirements. The Truckee Meadows risk meter is back in the “very high” range because of nearly full hospitals and the continued spread of the coronavirus disease.

“Our COVID risk meter has ticked up to the red or ‘very high’ range this week,” District Health Officer Kevin Dick said today during a media call. “This is because we have an increase in hospitalizations that have been occurring.”

Hospital beds are about 90% occupied. 

“We’ve seen an increase in COVID-19 patients up to 133 on the state’s dashboard today that either have confirmed or suspected COVID-19, and of those 31 are in the ICU,” Dick added. “Our risk meter is also very high because we continue to have a high number of COVID-19 case counts.”

New COVID-19 cases as of Nov. 3, 2021. Source: Washoe County COVID-19 dashboard.
New COVID-19 cases as of Nov. 3, 2021. Source: Washoe County COVID-19 dashboard.

The test positivity rate is at 10%. High positivity and new cases place Washoe County above both Gov. Steve Sisolak’s 8% criteria to loosen restrictions, as well as the World Health Organization’s 5% recommendation.

But there have been notable drops in new cases. The surge that occurred from July through mid-October has since declined from a 2021 peak in September of 392 new cases to 163 counted yesterday.

Dick said people should still exercise caution as holidays approach. Last year’s surge of new cases peaked in late November.

Deaths have not been on the increase as they were in September. There have been four deaths since the 900th death was reported last week.

Those 50 and older comprise the greater numbers of those who have died of COVID-19, according to the Washoe County COVID-19 dashboard.

County prepares for child vaccinations

WCHD is preparing to make available the Pfizer vaccine to children aged 5-11. 

“We’re quite pleased that the CDC and the FDA have now authorized that vaccination,” Dick said. 

Doses for children are limited right now to 300 and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. The first clinic is being offered Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Washoe County Health District building.

WCHD released the following vaccine information for 5-11 year olds:

  • Only the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is available for those aged 5-11.
  • Two doses are recommended, with the second dose due three weeks after the first.
  • The dosage for children aged 5-11 is 1/3rd the size of a standard Pfizer dose.
  • The vaccine was found to be 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children aged 5-11.
  • The vaccine’s safety was studied in approximately 3,100 children ages 5-11 who received the vaccine and no serious side effects have been detected in the ongoing study.
  • More safety information can be found here.

Vanessa Slots, a pediatrician at Renown, said the evidence is overwhelming that vaccinations are safe and effective. 

“If you are able to get this vaccine, please, please, please get vaccinated. A lot of people do show some concern with kids, because they do feel like they are less likely to get sick [and] they’re certainly less likely to get very sick,” she said. 

Slots acknowledged adults and the elderly are most susceptible to severe COVID-19 illnesses, adding that vaccinating children helps protect everyone.

“Their mortality rate is certainly less than our adult population,” she added. “However … we have had millions of cases of children who have had COVID. We know based off of the data that for every child who is activated in the 5- to 12-year range is expected to prevent 50,000 cases and 200-plus hospitalizations.”

New infections can be reduced if children are vaccinated, and rising immunity is “going to help protect those vulnerable adults,” Slots said.

Sisolak also today announced a western states safety group unanimously agreed the Pfizer vaccine is safe for children.

Sisolak said the group reviewed the vaccine’s safety.

“I encourage all families to choose vaccination for their children and for themselves. Protecting our kids will give them more days at school, with their friends and with their families. Vaccination is our way out of this pandemic,” he said. 

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