Covid cases dip as providers plan vaccine clinics for children up to 5

Two new highly infectious variants are likely to reinfect those who’ve not contracted the disease and infect those who’ve not had Covid

By: - June 16, 2022 3:58 pm
Cropped hand wearing a nitrile glove holding a Covid-19 vaccine vial and a syringe.

Covid vaccines for children under 5 could be shipped towards the end of the month. (Getty Images)

Covid cases have fallen slightly over the past two weeks, though two new variants are spreading, causing more infections and repeat bouts with the disease, specialists say.

The Oregon Health Authority said Wednesday that cases fell 5% over the last two weeks to about 21,000, compared with around 21,100 cases recorded the previous two weeks. Total Covid cases statewide are likely higher, according to Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist.

“While this trend is positive news, OHA assumes these numbers are an undercount of the actual number of cases because we know many people are using at-home tests and not reporting the results or not getting tested,” Sidelinger said in a statement.

The state’s bi-weekly Covid report also showed that deaths and hospitalizations are down. In the last two weeks, hospitalizations dropped 30%, and 37 people died, four fewer than the previous period.

Children vaccine clinics

They are likely to start June 25:

Visit Kaiser Permanente’s vaccine webpage

Call Providence at 971-326-8718 or a local clinic.

Visit Legacy’s Covid vaccine webpage

Visit Salem Health’s webpage.

Go to St. Charles Health’s webpage.

Check OHSU’s webpage.

This downward trend is expected to continue, according to the latest forecast by an Oregon Health & Science University forecaster, Peter Graven. Hospitalizations in the current surge of the variant BA.2 peaked on June 5 with 327 people hospitalized, he said. 

At the same time, respiratory diseases like flu are widespread in Oregon, according to Dr. Katie Sharff, infectious disease chief for Kaiser Permanente Northwest. Normally, they surge in winter months when people huddle indoors. She said this new phenomenon muddies expectations and predictions.

“What’s complicated is that the usual patterns that are expected and which help us predict illness and hospitalizations are no longer holding true,” Sharff said. “We’re seeing multiple respiratory viruses along with emergent variants of Covid.”

The two new variants – BA.4 and BA.5 – now account for about 15% of the nasal samples that are sequenced for their DNA. 

“Those are even more transmissible and potentially more virulent,” Sharff said. 

Everyone is susceptible to them, even those who’ve already had Covid, she said.

“Prior infection and vaccination are not good protections. We have what is called immune evasion,” Sharff said. “(People are) going to get Covid more than once: If you haven’t had it you will get it.”

She still recommends vaccinations and boosters to help prevent severe illness, especially for elderly people.

By the end of next week, two vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer are likely to be approved for the last age group: children aged 6 months through 4 years. Moderna requires two doses and Pfizer three. Sharff said young children face a lower risk for hospitalization than older populations, and specialists estimate that 80% of young children have already been infected.

“Kids are at a much lower risk of severe disease,” Sharff said. “Still, any sick kid is one sick kid too many.”

Kaiser Permanente is planning a clinic for young children on June 25. The Oregon Health & Science University said it will release information about that, too, next week. Providence Health & Services is working on setting up clinics at multiple locations in the Portland area. They would be held on Saturdays, with June 25 as the start date. Parents can schedule by calling Providence.

The virus is not likely to go away, nor are new variants. Sharff suspects yearly boosters will be needed, much like a flu shot. Pharmaceutical companies are working on creating a vaccine in the form of nasal drops that would offer protection against several variants.

 

 

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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.

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