NEW ORLEANS — Starting Monday, children ages 5-to-11 will be the latest to have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter restaurants and other businesses in New Orleans, but vaccination rates among kids remain low.
For children ages 5-to-17, the rate is a little more than 30%, compared to adults at about 80%. Dr. Mark Kline, chief medical officer at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, says he has serious concerns as the Omicron variant continues to spread.
“We’ve seen what Delta and now Omicron can do to children,” Kline said. “We know that they are at risk for serious disease and even death.”
Kline blames misinformation for the low rates among kids.
“There’s been so much misinformation conveyed, particularly on social media, and it’s hard for parents to discern what is accurate and what is not,” Kline said.
Kline says he has seen all sorts of myths online, like kids don’t get seriously ill from covid or that the vaccine will actually make kids sick. It’s all false, Kline says.
“That’s just not happening. We know that the disease is making people sick and some are even dying from the disease, but we are not seeing that caused by the vaccine at all," he said.
The new City vaccination requirement for kids coincides with one at New Orleans public schools, where students will be required to be vaccinated starting in February.
“Given that we have this period of time when kids are out of school, they are able to go get their vaccinations completed,” said Dr. Ryan Pasternak with LSU Health New Orleans pediatrics. “This is the chance. This is the best time parents have to get this done.”
As the number of new covid cases is trending up, health experts maintain getting the most eligible people vaccinated is the best way out of the pandemic. Kline is confident it can be done.
“We’ve got to work hard to put this behind us,” Kline said. “We can do it. We have the tools to do it. We just have to show the commitment to doing it.”
The city mandate for kids 5-to-11 began on Jan. 3. The public schools mandate starts in February.