California’s Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mark Ghaly began his Tuesday news conference by pointing out that he is a pediatrician.
Ghaly then went on to reveal some shocking statistics for a state in the midst of a pandemic.
Among children ages 0-18, he said, “California is running at only two-thirds the vaccination level we were at the same point in 2019.”
On a more granular level, Ghaly said that the state has seen two great drops in vaccinations this year and both have coincided with more stringent stay-at-home orders in April and July.
“When we went to a stay-at-home order,” he noted, “we saw a significant decrease in vaccinations of young people.”
“The fact that we are still very low, compared to the peak in August, is a concern,” said Dr. Ghaly. “We hope to see that number increase.”
Vaccinations are crucial leading into the fall and winter flu season, he noted, and even more so in the midst of a pandemic.
“This year getting your flu vaccine is especially important,” urged Ghaly, saying it can help prevent upper respiratory tract infections and prevent trips to the emergency room, a setting which can pose a threat of COVID infection.
That recommendation is especially true for kids.
“Unlike flu, COVID has not had — as of yet — as significant an impact on young people. Flu is notorious for having a grave impact on our youngest Californians — you know, infants, toddlers.”
“Together, flu and COVID create a doubly risky situation,” he said. That confluence is the nightmare that many experts have been worried about, including Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield.
Redfield recently said that the current pandemic paired with the oncoming flu season could create the “worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had.”
The 1918 “Spanish” Flu was the deadliest pandemic in history. One-third of the world’s population was infected. The virus killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, including an estimated 675,000 people in the United States. That was at a time when the U.S. population (in 1917, pre-outbreak) was 103 million.
During that pandemic, the greatest loss of lives happened in just 6 weeks between mid-November and the end of December. One-third of the U.S. virusdeaths occurred during that period.
And it’s not just flu and COVID that Ghaly is worried about. “When [kids] return to school, unvaccinated kids might [also] be vulnerable to diseases like measles and whooping cough,” he said.
Ghaly speculated that vaccination numbers among kids may have plummeted because, in the midst of a pandemic, “many people are wary of going into doctors’ offices.”
But the director urged Californians to get vaccinated now before there is a surge in demand as the flu season hits.
“Many hospitals and clinics are starting to receive their flu vaccine shipments,” he said, before imploring residents to get a jump on demand.
Ghaly also announced that the state had seen 4,636 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and reported 100 new deaths.
But, “Sunday is usually our lowest reporting day,” he cautioned.
Ghaly also noted that, after weeks of dropping numbers, “We saw a small increase in hospitalizations related to COVID.” That number amounted to 86 more COVID cases hospitalized than the previous daily total.
The state is reaching out to hospital partners to see if that rise is a trend or a one-day blip, he said.
Watch Ghaly’s presentation below.
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