Children's National hospital is seeing a high number of children being admitted due to the impact of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. (Courtesy photo)

Dr. Sarah Ash Combs, an emergency room doctor at Children’s National in D.C., sees firsthand the impact the omicron variant continues to have on children in the District. 

“I’ve personally admitted a couple of babies [to the hospital],” Dr. Combs said. “Then we are also seeing a number of kids who are in the 5 to 11 year [old] range. That’s been a harder group for us to get the vaccine message out to.” 

As of Monday, 48 children remain hospitalized at Children’s National due to COVID-19 – double the number of children hospitalized during the delta variant wave, according to Dr. Combs.

“We’ve basically seen almost an exponential rise both in case numbers . . . just positive COVID tests coming out of the hospitals and then also in the hospitalizations,” she said. 

Over 50% of COVID-19 tests are coming back as positive through the Children National Hospital system, Dr. Combs said. And while there’s a mix of positive cases among vaccinated and unvaccinated children, those unvaccinated or partially vaccinated remain the ones most hospitalized. 

In the District, 11% of children between the ages of 5 and 11 count as fully vaccinated with 9% reported as partially vaccinated. 

Children ages 5-11 have recently been approved by the FDA for a booster shot with the approval by the CDC anticipated soon. However, young people still represent the smallest percentage of those who received their booster shot. In D.C., 13.8% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have received their booster shot.

Black children make up the majority of those hospitalized at Children’s National Hospital, especially in the emergency room, according to Dr. Combs. She said the hospital continues to see “high numbers of positives in that childhood population.”

The data on who’s vaccinated and the status of each ward overall as well as additional demographics continue to be released and updated on the District’s coronavirus dashboard. However, specific statistics related to age, race, and economic standing as each category intersects with vaccination status cannot be determined by ward on the dashboard. 

However, Ward 8, a majority-Black ward in the District, has seen the most cases of COVID-19 in D.C. and also reports the lowest vaccination rates in the District. Currently, 34% of Ward 8 residents report being fully vaccinated, falling significantly lower than most of the other wards in the city, excluding Ward 7, with a vaccination rate of 40%. 

The case rate per 100,000 population in the District has increased since November. The data through Dec. 30 shows the weekly case rate increased from 73.7 in November to 1,868 in December. The daily case rate for COVID-19 in D.C. continues to grow worse, according to District officials with the current daily case rate standing at 266.9. 

As a doctor who encourages people to get vaccinated, Dr. Combs said she understands parents’ hesitancy with vaccinating younger children. However, she says the trials being done have proved to be robust, safe and effective. 

“I’m not just a doctor – I’m also a parent,” she said. “I have a child who’s too young to be vaccinated though I would be keen to vaccinate him if he were in the eligible age group,” Dr. Combs added.

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