“My grandson’s five. He shouldn’t be getting his heart checked at five years old,” Kerry Bellegarde-Opoonechaw said Thursday.
“It’s time to be careful now. Us, as leaders, parents and caregivers, should be totally vigilant about taking care of our young people. We should be vaccinating, wearing masks and not going out if we don’t have to.”
Maverick Bennett woke up feeling sick Tuesday with symptoms of COVID-19. That day, both he and his mother Janis were admitted to hospital testing positive.
“He was swollen. His eyes were really dark and were shut. He was lethargic and wasn’t really responding,” Bellegarde-Opponechaw explained.
“And he wasn’t eating. They both haven’t eaten in a while. Their appetites are gone. The sickness isn’t allowing them to eat.”
She said as of Thursday, Maverick is on an IV for nutrition, and his heart is being monitored as well as he deals with an inflammatory response.
Since the province began isolating the age group for daily reporting on Sept. 14, it has reported 775 cases of COVID-19 in kids aged 0-11 (the province did not release age-specific data Sept. 18 or 19).
The Ministry of Health added Thursday that there are currently four children under 12 who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are in hospital, none of whom are in the ICU.
Pediatrician Ayisha Kurji said evidence shows children are less likely to end up in hospital.
“It’s still something that we’re trying top figure out. There is some thought that they have different cells in their nasal passages, which is where we inhale virus and the different cells sort of stop some of that virus from getting into your system,” she said.
“The other part of it is their immune systems work differently. They’re primed to learn different viruses and try to combat them very quickly. Part of the issue with COVID is the inflammatory response that your body generates when it sees that virus, and kids don’t always have that same inflammatory response.”
But still, she says that with new case numbers so high, some kids will inevitably end up needing urgent medical care.
“We know that some kids do get the long COVID symptoms that we see in adults, although less than adults, just like less kids are getting super sick with COVID,” said Kurji, who is an associate professor of general pediatrics at the University of Saskatchewan.
“But as the number of kids who get infected goes up, we would suspect that a number could end up in the hospital and end up sick. Sometimes they can have lots of inflammation and end up really sick in the ICU.”
According to a statement sent by Health Canada Thursday, “all manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized in Canada are conducting or planning studies in adolescents and younger children, including children from 6 months to 11 years of age.
“Health Canada anticipates vaccine manufacturers to provide data in children in the coming months.”
The statement continues, though, to say that “at this time, no submission has been received for the approval of any COVID-19 vaccine in children under 12 years of age.”
With that in mind, and with the likelihood that some transmission is still possible even among the vaccinated, Kurji said the health habits built at the start of the pandemic still need to be followed.
“Wear your mask everywhere you go, especially inside with shared indoor airspace, wash your hands frequently, stay distant even if you’re outside and keep your contacts down to help our contact tracers and so that if you do get COVID you’re spreading it to fewer people.”
Bellegarde-Opoonechaw points to her grandson as evidence of why such caution is still needed.
She said that her daughter Janis chose not to be vaccinated, but took every other precaution she could to not contract COVID-19, including by making sure her and Maverick were always masked when they went out, sanitizing frequently and limiting social contact.
She encourages everyone who can to get vaccinated, and to continue practising other tactics to prevent spread even after vaccination.
“We’re just hoping they get better and people realize how important it is to get vaccinated.”