JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The latest surge of COVID-19 has produced a jump in hospitalized patients at Children’s of Mississippi, mainly in Mississippi’s youngsters without the added protection of vaccination.

“Most of our children admitted specifically for COVID-19 are unvaccinated or are younger than 5 years old and don’t qualify for vaccination,” said Dr. April Palmer, professor and chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UMMC.

Kehle Hutto was getting the protection of a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Friday afternoon at Children’s of Mississippi’s Batson Kids Clinic.

“It wasn’t bad,” said the 12-year-old from Madison. “It didn’t even hurt, and my first shot didn’t, either.”

The vaccination makes becoming ill or hospitalized less likely, said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair and professor of pediatrics.

“In the past two weeks, the number of children hospitalized at Children’s of Mississippi because of COVID-19 has tripled,” said Taylor. “We know the importance of in-person learning for children and want schools to be open safely. We encourage parents to have their children wear face masks when in school or in public and to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19.”  

Just before Thanksgiving, there were few pediatric COVID-19 cases at Children of Mississippi, the state’s only children’s hospital. Today, 20 children diagnosed with COVID-19 were hospitalized, including three in intensive care.

Some pediatric COVID-19 cases are less severe, but other children require advanced care including ventilation, said Gordon Gartrell, nurse manager for the pediatric intensive care unit inside the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children’s of Mississippi.

As children return to in-person learning after the holiday season, taking precautions is essential, said Gartrell.

“As always, masking up, appropriate hand hygiene and social distancing when at all possible are key to limiting the spread of this highly communicable disease,” he said. 

Children who are feverish or exhibiting any other symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home from school to reduce the virus’ spread, Palmer added.