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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida and WUSF can help. Our responsibility at WUSF News is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

As pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations rise, doctors are urging families to get kids vaccinated

Young boy sits on a medical table inside a doctor's office while a nurse prepares his arm for a vaccination.
Stephanie Colombini
WUSF Public Media
Kids ages 12 and older are also now eligible for booster shots if they received their second dose at least five months ago.

Thousands of kids in Florida are testing positive for the coronavirus. Doctors say hospitals are seeing about as many patients as they did during the delta surge.

Health experts are urging families to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19 as pediatric hospitalizations rise.

For some kids ages 12 and older, that means booster shots, now that the CDC is recommending those for children who had their second dose at least five months ago.

Dr. Allison Messina, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, said the number of children admitted with COVID is starting to match the levels they saw during the height of the delta surge last summer.

"We're seeing an increase in our ER volumes and we're seeing an increase in our in-patient admissions," she said. "So we're typically running about 10-15 patients right now inpatient who are here for COVID-19 and that's a lot more than we've seen in the past few weeks."

Messina added staffing shortages due to the virus is also posing challenges for the hospital.

Statewide as of Jan. 9, there were 184 children hospitalized with COVID-19, according to U.S. Health and Human Services data.

Approximately 68,500 residents 19 years and younger tested positive for the virus in the week ending Jan. 6, according to the Florida Department of Health. Nearly half of those were kids younger than 12.

"Especially kids in school, it's going to be challenging to keep them healthy considering there's not only COVID-19 going around but also flu," Messina said. "I would say the best thing that families can do is, if your child is eligible, to get them vaccinated and/or boosted."

She added in addition to COVID shots, families should make sure their kids are caught up on all other vaccinations recommended for school children.

Messina said COVID-19 typically doesn't affect kids as severely as adults, but said almost all of the children who have gotten seriously ill weren't vaccinated.

"So I would say even if it's rare, if there's something you can do to prevent that from happening, it's certainly worth doing," she said. "And I always tell parents, 'Everything is rare until it happens to your child and then it's not rare anymore.'"

We've got a list of places you can find COVID-19 vaccines in the greater Tampa Bay region in our county-by-county coronavirus guide.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.