Clayton County child dies after contracting COVID-19

Sofia Rosenthal is shown here receiving her COVID-19 vaccination on Monday, her 12th birthday, from Phoena Mack at Dekalb Pediatrics in Decatur.  As a newly minted 12-year-old it was the first day Rosenthal was eligible.  Her mother, Kristen Rosenthal, sat next to her to comfort her, as Sofia was not looking forward to the shot.  But Sofia left proud of herself, said Dr. Jane Wilkov.   (PHOTO by STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)
Caption
Sofia Rosenthal is shown here receiving her COVID-19 vaccination on Monday, her 12th birthday, from Phoena Mack at Dekalb Pediatrics in Decatur. As a newly minted 12-year-old it was the first day Rosenthal was eligible. Her mother, Kristen Rosenthal, sat next to her to comfort her, as Sofia was not looking forward to the shot. But Sofia left proud of herself, said Dr. Jane Wilkov. (PHOTO by STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Brings Georgia total to 11 child deaths from coronavirus, some with no underlying conditions

Another Georgia child has died after contracting COVID-19, highlighting the challenge of getting kids vaccinated and the dangers if that doesn’t happen.

The child, a 14-year-old Hispanic male from Clayton County, had underlying conditions that contributed to the severity of the disease. State officials confirmed the death but could not say what the conditions were.

“This disease is real,” said Dr. Jane Wilkov, a pediatrician at DeKalb Pediatrics in Decatur. Young people may not get it severely as often as adults, but they do get it severely, and they can die, she said.

“That’s why the vaccine has been approved for this age group — they know there’s a risk,” she said. “There is a risk.”

Yet even as vaccine doses sit idle in the state, the vaccination rate for Georgia adolescents is low. It’s low even compared to Georgia adults, which is among the worst in the nation.

Young people aged 12 and above have been eligible for vaccine since May 10. But out of the state’s 440,000 children aged 12 to 14, just 63,000 have had at least one dose of vaccine, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Samuel Hershner (C)receives his Covid 19 shot by RMA Phoena Mack (R) while sitting next to his mother Diane Hershner in  Decatur Monday, June 14, 2021.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Caption
Samuel Hershner (C)receives his Covid 19 shot by RMA Phoena Mack (R) while sitting next to his mother Diane Hershner in Decatur Monday, June 14, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

The risks are significant — to the children themselves and other people they might infect as carriers.

More than 100,000 Georgia children have contracted COVID-19, according to a joint report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. Of those, more than 1,300 Georgia children were so severely infected that they were admitted to the hospital.

Because children are affected by the coronavirus at lower rates than adults, the data on how it affects them has been sparser and slower to come. Children who die of COVID-19 usually have underlying conditions such as asthma, obesity or other chronic conditions. Three in Georgia did not; case data for a 17-year-old and two 7-year-old COVID-19 deaths reported no underlying conditions.

The children who died in Georgia were overwhelmingly people of color: African-Americans, and now, three Hispanics. Medical experts believe that’s partly a result of poorer access to health care among those groups, such as having health insurance and a regular doctor.

The well-publicized severe outcomes of COVID-19 for children also include a syndrome called MIS-C, a rare condition that comes weeks later to children who seemed to recover from COVID-19.

But there’s also growing concern about the impact children may see from “long-haul Covid-19,” or aftereffects of the infection that may go on for weeks, or months, or who knows.

Commonly reported symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath and loss of smell that simply don’t go away. Scores of other possible symptoms have been suggested by patients from styes and rashes to peeling feet.

On Monday, a Harvard-led team announced the formation of a nationwide study to answer some of the questions surrounding long-haul Covid-19, a study that will seek information from cases nationwide and include data scientists and doctors.

“We still don’t know for certain what the long-term health impacts will be … or how widespread the long-term public health consequences will be,” said Dr. Anne Klibanski, president and chief executive officer of Mass General Brigham, the hospital where part of the team is based.

The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospital system is urging families to get their children of all eligible ages vaccinated.

“Getting vaccinated is not just about protecting yourself from COVID-19; it’s also about preventing the spread of the virus to others and preventing infection that can lead to long-term negative health effects,” the hospital system said in a statement.

The Georgia DPH echoed those sentiments.

“While not typical, children can be hospitalized and die from COVID,” Dr. Georgina Peacock, DPH’s chief medical officer, said in a statement.

In Decatur, Dr. Wilkov said their initial rush of vaccinations is starting to come down to individual outreach. She sees hesitancy among racial minorities. She says it helps that she has a diverse medical staff and they can talk frankly with the patients.

Adolescents often want to get vaccinated, just to be able to get out and live a normal life again, she said. Because many teens live scattered lives her practice practice had about 20 patients’ second shots canceled last week because of summer plans or soccer practices.

That’s a problem when it comes to the new “delta” variant of the coronavirus. The delta variant is weak against fully vaccinated people, but powerful against people who’ve had just one shot of a two-shot regimen.

“Having conversations, being available to talk one-on-one, talking honestly with folks — slowly but surely you win over one person, and then another person,” Wilkov said. “And that’s how we’re going to get everybody vaccinated.”

GEORGIA’S CHILD DEATHS FROM COVID-19

African-American male with underlying conditions, Cobb County, 1 year old

African-American male with no detected underlying conditions, Chatham County, 7

African-American female with no detected underlying conditions, Clayton, 7

White male with underlying conditions, Pierce County, 12

Hispanic male with underlying conditions, Clayton County, 14

White female with underlying conditions, Gwinnett County, 14

Hispanic female with underlying conditions, Habersham County, 14

Hispanic male with underlying conditions, Gwinnett County, 15

African-American male with underlying conditions, Baldwin County, 17

African-American male with no detected underlying conditions, Dodge County, 17

African-American male with underlying conditions, Fulton County, 17