The nation is experiencing a huge spike in COVID-19 infections in children "largely because they are in unvaccinated communities and households," Dr. Ashish Jha said Wednesday.
"It is sobering, and I bet that most of the kids who are getting admitted, not only are they not vaccinated, their family members are probably not vaccinated," Jha said on CNN's "New Day." "Kids get it from the adults around them, and so the best way to protect kids who can't get vaccinated, kids under 12, is to have adults around them vaccinated."
His comments came after New Day interviewed Dr. Kelechi Iheagwara, the medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital in Baton Rouge, who said her hospital is "at war" not only with COVID cases but with other viruses such as outbreaks in rhinovirus and RSV.
However there has been a "significant increase" in the number of COVID-positive cases of children running in ages from 3 weeks to 17 years old coming into the hospital, and "absolutely none" of the children, even the ones older than 12, have been vaccinated.
"It tells us that we are not doing a great job in keeping our kids safe," she said. "We need to do better. What we are seeing is a huge spike in infections in kids largely because they are in unvaccinated communities and households."
Jha commented that the question for people who are vaccinated will be about how to learn to live with COVID-19 being around, as it's not going to be eradicated anytime soon.
"Is it a minor annoyance or are we going to see people we love get potentially sick and die?" he said. "I think we can get to the virus being no longer a minor annoyance by making sure people we live with, people we love get vaccinated. That includes kids under 12. We need to get younger children vaccinated."
But if the vaccination numbers don't rise, "we're going to have communities in America where we're going to see a lot of suffering and deaths for weeks, months, or even years," said Jha.
Earlier this week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis commented on the summer season being part of the reason for the large COVID-19 numbers being reported from his state, and Jha agreed that there is a "seasonality to the virus."
But, Jha stressed, "that doesn't explain Florida right now."
"Right now I think it is a combination of bad policies and the fact that it is very hot and people are spending more time indoors and we know the virus likes to spread indoors," said Jha. "I don't think we want to blame all of it on seasonality. I think the broader issue here is that we have policies that can mitigate this and we're not employing them."
Jha also said he finds the decision of three major airlines, Southwest, American, and Delta, not to require their workers to get vaccinated "really disappointing."
"I fly Delta a lot and now I'm going to have to think about whether that makes sense," Jha said. "The idea that they're not going to protect their customers by asking employees to be vaccinated is baffling. So I do think these companies should reconsider that decision."
He added that he had thought all the airlines would follow United in requiring vaccinations and said the decisions from the other airlines might change his mind about which airline he picks for his own travels.
"I don't really love being around people, adults who are unvaccinated," said Jha. "I think it puts everybody at risk, and if one airline is choosing to do that, I would start worrying about their broader safety policies."
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