As children ages 5 to 11 began Thursday to receive their first shots of COVID-19, hospitalizations rose above 200 patients again.

Hospitalizations jumped from 198 Wednesday to 215 Thursday, with the number of intensive care unit patients increasing from 46 to 51.

Orange county has 21.7% of its intensive care unit beds available and 68% of its ventilators.

The county also added 292 more infections, raising the cumulative to 306,274, and logged three more fatalities, hiking the cumulative death toll to 5,612.

On Wednesday morning, the Western States Scientific Safety Review workgroup passed along its OK of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 to western state governors, including in California.

Dr. Dan Cooper, a pediatrician with UC Irvine’s Institute for Immunology, said he is advising parents to get their children vaccinated. However, he is careful to tell reluctant parents to at least think about it. He does not favor mandates.

“I would at first like to try to get parents to get the vaccine,” Cooper told City News Service. “It’s a touchy situation. You’re making a decision about someone else, not about yourself.”

Cooper noted that “`because it is less severe” of a problem among children, “we have a little bit more breathing room.”

He said it appears one-third of the parents of his patients want to get their children vaccinated right away, one-third are reluctant but open-minded and another third are just against it.

His practice mostly treats low-income Latino families and many parents “have been so affected by the disease, they want their kids vaccinated as soon as possible.”

But there is more hesitancy in communities not affected as much by COVID-19, Cooper said.

Cooper noted that while COVID-19 has not had as much effect on children, that doesn’t mean they’re not at risk of the disease.

“I don’t buy the data that it is completely innocuous in children because it is not,” Cooper said. “There are going to be kids with no underlying conditions who are going to get very sick.”

Also, the experts do not know what long-term effects COVID-19 could have on some children.

Cooper has done much research into the obesity epidemic among children and said overweight children are not only more susceptible to serious symptoms, they also get less protection from the vaccines.

“It’s as true in children as it is true in adults,” Cooper said. “I’m hoping one of the lessons from this whole thing is we need to resume our efforts to deal with obesity and inactivity in kids. It’s an epidemic.”

The number of fully vaccinated residents in Orange County increased from last 2,177,053 last Thursday to 2,190,754 this week.

That number includes an increase from 2,032,863 to 2,045,291 residents who have received the two-dose regimen of vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna. The number of residents receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine increased from 144,190 to 145,463.

There are 185,936 residents who have received one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

The top providers of vaccines are the OCHCA at 26%, CVS at 19%, Walgreens at 6%, Kaiser Permanente at 5%, UC Irvine Health at 3%; Walmart at 2%, Safeway, Vons and Pavilions at 1%; Families Together of Orange County at 1%, and multiple others also at 1%.

Orange County’s weekly averages for COVID-19 cases and positivity rates ticked up after several weeks of gradual decline, according to data released Tuesday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The county’s weekly COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 residents increased from 6 to 7.2, while the test-positivity rate ticked up from 2.3% to 2.5%. The county’s Health Equity Quartile positivity rate — which measures progress in low-income communities — inched up from 2.3% to 2.4%.

The case rate among the unvaccinated has seen a marked increase, and a slight increase among the vaccinated has also been detected, according to the OCHCA.

The case rate per 100,000 unvaccinated residents was 15.7 as of Oct. 23 and rose to 17.5 as of Oct. 30, the latest data available. For fully vaccinated residents it was 3.4 per 100,000 residents by Oct. 23 and 3.6 as of Oct. 30.

The three deaths logged Thursday occurred in October, raising last month’s death toll to 59.

September’s death toll stands at 167, close behind August’s toll of 172.

In contrast, the death toll before the more contagious Delta variant-fueled surge was 29 in July, 19 for June, 26 for May, 46 for April, 200 for March, 615 for February, 1,585 for January — the deadliest month of the pandemic — and 977 for December, the next-deadliest.

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