Hospitals see a growing number of children with COVID-19, Cambridge pediatrician says

Cambridge pediatrician Dr. Matthew Purser says hospitals in the region are seeing a growing number of children admitted to hospital with COVID-19. In fact, he says there have been more COVID-19 cases in children in the last four weeks than the rest of the pandemic combined.

As cases rise in community, more children will fall ill, says Dr. Matthew Purser

Dr. Matthew Purser is a pediatrician at Grand River Hospital and Cambridge Memorial Hospital. He says there have been more COVID-19 cases in children in the last four weeks than the rest of the pandemic combined. (Region of Waterloo/YouTube)

A Cambridge pediatrician says local hospitals have seen more COVID-19 cases in children in the last four weeks than the rest of the pandemic combined.

Dr. Matthew Purser is a pediatrician at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, and Cambridge Memorial Hospital. He's also an assistant clinical professor in the department of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton.

He said as cases rise in the community, it only makes sense more children will become ill with the virus and, in turn, more will need to be hospitalized.

"I think the key message for families to keep in mind is that for the average child, if they get sick with Omicron or with COVID, they're unlikely to need hospitalization. They're very unlikely to have severe disease," he said in an interview with The Morning Edition's host Craig Norris on Friday.

"But we know that about one per cent of children who do get COVID are going to need to be hospitalized."

Purser then offered a local perspective on what that means for a city like Cambridge, where there are approximately 16,000 children.

"If we allowed COVID and Omicron to, kind of, run rampant through the community and everyone theoretically got infected at the same time ... 160 [children] therefore, we would expect to need to be hospitalized," he said.

Cambridge Memorial Hospital has the ability to support seven or eight children admitted to the hospital at a time, he said.

"That number is very different from the 160," he said. "So you can see there's a huge discrepancy between what our health-care system is able to provide in a safe way to patients versus what we would potentially be looking at if we allowed things to go unabated."

Strain on local hospitals

The heads of the region's local hospitals say they have very little room to admit any new patients, including children.

In a COVID-19 briefing on Friday, for the Region of Waterloo, officials broke down how many beds were available at that time:

  • Cambridge Memorial Hospital had six beds available.
  • Grand River Hospital in Kitchener had 12 beds available.
  • St. Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener did not have any beds as it was at 104 per cent capacity.

The hospitals said they've started to move patients into "less traditional spaces" within the buildings to care for them, but said even that is dependent on staff availability.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region's medical officer of health, said the latest information shows that children are at lower risk of hospitalizations and severe outcomes from the virus, particularly if they have one or two doses of the vaccine.

Still, she encouraged parents and caregivers to get children vaccinated as soon as they can.

The region's vaccination dashboard showed that as of Friday, 48.8 per cent of children aged five to 11 have received a first dose of the vaccine while just under six per cent have two doses.

LISTEN | Dr. Matthew Purser on when children aged 5 to 11 should get 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Parents may want to consider getting their children aged five to 11 their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before the eight-week recommended interval. Waterloo region pediatrician Dr. Matthew Purser explains why and what he's seen locally when it comes to case trends.


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