MAINE, USA — The youngest Mainers who cannot get a dose of the COVID vaccine have started to show increases in infections in the last two months.
Kids under five cannot get the vaccine. In December 2021, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,462 kids in that age group got infected with the virus.
That is the highest single-month count in Maine since the pandemic began. January 2022 is on pace to smash that record. The latest data from Maine CDC show 1,265 cases through Jan. 17.
"Omicron is infecting far more children than we saw with any of the previous variants, including children that now require hospitalization," Dr. James Jarvis, COVID incident command for Northern Light Health, said during a media briefing on Wednesday.
There is some good news: kids who catch COVID tend to have less severe outcomes than adults.
"No one is downplaying the risk or the impact of a child having COVID, but thankfully, one finding that has held is that children are not as severely affected as are adults," Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said during a media briefing on Wednesday. "There was an early notion that kids don't get affected by COVID, and there were all these theories about why, and that may have been true early on in the pandemic. But with the omicron variant, that's changed."
But Jarvis warned that parents might not want to risk their kids ending up in the hospital.
"We cannot predict who it is that's going to die from COVID, who is going to require these hospitalizations," Jarvis said. "So if you care about those individuals, you care about the individuals around you, and you care about the individuals in your community. The best way to protect all of them is to protect yourselves. And protecting yourself means getting your vaccine if you haven't started the series yet, or being boosted."