Milwaukee County Hispanic children struggle with high rates of COVID-19, vaccine offers relief

Posted at 6:30 PM, Sep 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-20 19:30:37-04

MILWAUKEE — A big step forward in a potential COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11 after Pfizer said its trials showthe vaccine is safe and generates a “robust” antibody response in children. This announcement comes as Milwaukee County continues to see a rise in COVID-19 cases among children.

In the last week in Milwaukee County, there were 499 positive cases just in the county for children. A month ago in the week of Aug. 5, there were 301 cases. The population hit the hardest by COVID-19 continues to be the Hispanic community. It is something United Community Center director of health research, Al Castro, is trying to change.

"About 42 percent of Latinos are fully vaccinated, so that means 60 percent are not. But compared to where we were in May, I think it was 25 percent. It is movement. It is movement,” said Castro.

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The UCC along with other groups is working to get the vaccine to underserved communities in Milwaukee County. Despite making up 15 percent of the population in the county, Hispanic children account for the most cases, nearly 30 percent. That is compared to 29 percent of African American children and 28 percent of white children.

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Castro says there are multiple reasons Hispanics have such high numbers, and part of it has to do with the jobs they work that make it hard to stay home or isolate.

"In many of our families, we are sharing houses. We have multi-generations living together. We have grandparents, aunts and uncles. And many of our residents have jobs where they are out there,” said Castro.

United Community Center UCC
United Community Center, 1028 S. Ninth St. Milwaukee

In Wisconsin and across the country, cases of COVID-19 are up in children. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported 243,000 new infections two weeks ago. That is the second highest number of COVID-19 cases among kids since the pandemic began.

"You know anytime a child comes down with COVID-19, I get a little bit concerned. Now it's true that their rate of serious disease or death is lower than that of adults, but you know when you have so many kids that are becoming infected, you start to see these cases of serious disease or death,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, UW Health chief quality officer and an emergency medicine doctor.

Pothof says the Pfizer vaccine still faces a stringent process to get approved for children ages 5 to 11. The data still needs to be reviewed from the Food and Drug Administration, plus it needs to be published and peer reviewed.

"I think the timing of this news is great, because we have more cases in kids, we have more cases in our hospitals. And this would be an effective tool to fight back against the pandemic that seems to have turned its attention to our kids at this point,” said Pothof.

The FDA will review Pfizer’s findings once it submits its data. That could take 4-6 weeks, and if that happens, the vaccine could be available for younger kids by Halloween.

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