Colorado Clinician Shares How to Protect Children Not Yet Vaccinated Against COVID-19

Rocky Mountain Children's Hospital CMO Dr. Reggie Washington

Photo Credit: KDVR-TV video

In late September 2021, Colorado had fewer than 150 ICU beds available across the state as COVID-19 hospitalizations surged again, this time driven by the delta variant. COVID-19 patient admissions were tripling at some hospitals, including at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver. About a third of those patients were being treated in the ICU, and about half of those were on ventilators.

Despite this surge, health care leaders in the state say one thing is preventing hospitals and health systems from being completely overwhelmed: a relatively high vaccination rate, with more than 60% of Coloradans fully vaccinated.

“The reason our hospitals are doing better than hospitals in many other states is simply because our vaccination rates are so high in Colorado,” said Scott Bookman, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s incident commander for the pandemic, talking to the Colorado Sun.

As flu season starts, clinical leaders in the state are still concerned and continuing to publicly urge everyone age 12 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We have a lot of tools in our toolbox now to fight COVID,” said Reggie Washington, chief medical officer at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, in an interview with KDVR News. “We need to take advantage of all of them.” The children’s hospital is part of Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Washington expressed concern about three things this fall: COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), noting that hospitals are seeing more RSV infections earlier this year for children in the community. Washington added he will be advocating for children ages 5-11 to get the COVID-19 vaccine once it’s approved.

And what about children age 4 and younger, who still won’t be eligible for the vaccine?

“We need to protect them with the obvious things,” Washington explained. If a child is exposed to someone who is sick, that’s an “unforced error, if you will,” he said. His common-sense recommendations: Keep children away from “anyone who is sick with sniffles or fever or whatever.” Be diligent in checking symptoms and isolating children if they’re sick. If children are sick at school or daycare, send them home — and keep them home if they’re sick. He also emphasized to keep doing frequent handwashing and wearing masks.

Winning the fight against COVID-19 and keeping people healthy rely on using the best tool in the toolbox: the vaccine: “If you are eligible to get a vaccine,” Washington said, “please do, because it’s the most effective tool we have to date for preventing you from getting really sick from COVID.”