Doctor: Kids Are More Likely To Be Hospitalized For COVID-19 Than the Flu

Sept. 2, 2021, 4:20 p.m. ·

Kid wears black face mask. Hands in pocket. Backpack behind him.
Dr. Kari Simonsen said the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends people of all ages wear masks in schools. (Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash)

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Earlier this week, Governor Pete Ricketts said kids are at no more risk from COVID-19 than they are from the flu and shouldn’t be required to mask up for protection in schools, but a local children’s doctor disagrees.

Dr. Kari Simonsen is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at University of Nebraska Medical Center and a doctor at Children's Hospital in Omaha. She said unlike the COVID-19 vaccine, kids under 12 can be protected against the flu as early as six months old with a shot.

"The risks are high, with lots of cases circulating in our community right now," she said. "We don't have the availability of vaccine for all. So, we need to do as much as we can to keep kids safe, and we'll be able to keep them in schools and not close down schools for outbreaks, if we do smart things like wear masks."

Dr. Simonsen said according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kids are about four times more likely to be hospitalized when they get COVID-19 compared to the flu.

"Right now our community rates of COVID are substantial enough that we really need to be helping to protect those vulnerable folks around us, even if they are of an age where they could be vaccinated," she said.

The COVID-19 delta variant has changed the game for kids. Dr. Simonsen said there’s been an increase with COVID related hospitalizations and severe infections in kids since the variant was detected in Nebraska.