COVID-19 fatigue: California county health departments urge more vaccinations for under-17s with new variant

COVID-19 transmission statistics from late June to early July found that California was experiencing a similar summer surge in cases similar to what it had in 2020 and 2021.

As of July 4, 2022, the seven-day average number of new daily cases stood at 19,028 nationwide. In 2021 this figure was 7,709 and in 2020 it was 7,805. Although the daily rate is higher, the 2022 figure has a much lower death rate, with an average death rate of just 39 per day in 2022 compared to Independence Day 2020, when it was 65 for the entire country. July rates are also much lower overall for new cases and deaths than the winters of 2020-2021 and 2021-2022.

While newer variants, such as Omicron BA.2.12, have proven more tolerable, symptoms have been milder with far fewer deaths. But even though the COVID-19 virus is generally now following the path of the Spanish flu 100 years ago and is gradually becoming more endemic, multiple county health departments around the state are urging young children to get the vaccine as soon as possible because of very recent outbreaks in places with these 17 and under as well as preparing to go back to school next month.

“With the recent increase in cases and the end of the school year, Los Angeles County is now seeing outbreaks at camps, youth programs and day care sites as many are open for the summer,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in press release on Tuesday. “During the month of June, there were four new outbreaks at day camps/non-K12 programs or day care sites for school-age children and two new outbreaks at overnight camps.”

“As vaccinations provide the best protection against severe disease and MIS-C, parents are urged to ensure that they and their children are up to date on their vaccinations and boosters when eligible. As eligibility has been extended to children under 5 years of age, 7,642 doses have been administered by June 30.”

“The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against COVID-19 are available for children 6 months to 17 years of age. The Moderna vaccine requires two doses given four to eight weeks apart for children 6 months to 17 years of age. No boosters are currently recommended for Moderna’s vaccine. Pfizer’s vaccine for children ages 6 months to 4 years requires three doses, with three to eight weeks between the first and second doses and at least eight weeks between the second and third doses. Pfizer’s vaccine boosters are not currently recommended for children aged 6 months to 4 years.’

Vaccinations against COVID-19 in California

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer (Photo: LA County.gov)

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer also noted the changing options, including possible new increases due to BA.4 and BA.5 likely coming to California soon, noting Tuesday that “Earlier in the pandemic it looked like every few months we hear about a potential new variant of the concern.

“But recently, within weeks of the dominance of one variant of concern, there have been reports from other parts of the country or other parts of the world of other or subtypes or different strains, and that’s especially true with Omicron.” When people ask why public health remains cautious, it’s because every time there’s a new variant that’s more contagious or potentially more contagious, that means it can spread more easily. You must be extremely attentive to those who are most vulnerable in our communities. And here in LA County, that’s millions of people. That’s not a small number.

While there is an urgent need to increase vaccinations, with the nationwide rate now at 84% with at least one dose, new cases and deaths have plateaued in recent weeks, signaling a possible decline in the next few weeks. For many, the new calls for vaccinations have only added to the state’s pandemic fatigue.

“People just don’t want to hear about COVID-19 anymore,” Los Angeles health worker Miguel Santos told the Globe on Tuesday. “This has been going on for two, two and a half years now and everyone is sick of it. Only if it’s a requirement or people really care does it even appear now. That and when people get tested, especially for international travel.”

“It’s really not optimal where we are because, you know, we’re doctors, nurses and others who don’t want to harm you or others. But everyone wants things to go back to normal now, and for many it’s just ignoring all the COVID or at most wearing a mask in public or places where they have to. That’s it. Hand sanitizer, standing inside, everything, that’s not a thing. We’ve just had a string of box office records, stadiums are filling up again and so many people are flying that it’s causing crashes in our system and sending gas prices skyrocketing. We have to keep an eye on this, but everyone just wants it to end.”

More reports of COVID-19 are expected later this year, with new peaks and variants likely to emerge in California.

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