HONOLULU - A child who traveled to Hawaii with his parents died from COVID-19, the Hawaii Department of Health announced on Tuesday, marking the state’s first pediatric coronavirus-related death.
The boy, who was between the ages of 0-10 years old and had underlying health conditions, developed COVID-19 symptoms shortly after arriving on the island while on a trip with his parents. He was taken to a hospital where he later died, a news release from Hawaii health officials said.
Both of the child’s parents were fully vaccinated before making the trip.
FILE - People enjoy the beach at the Kapahulu groin in Waikiki on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020 in Honolulu, HI amid an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
So far, Hawaii has reported a total of 32,041 COVID-19 cases and 479 total deaths, according to the state health department website.
As of April 22, more than 3.71 million children had tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. "After increases in newly reported cases in the past couple of weeks, we have seen a slight decrease in new cases this week – nearly 80,000 new child cases," according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association (AAP).
Deaths due to the novel coronavirus in children are rare. A total of 0.00%-0.03% of all child COVID-19 cases result in death, according to the AAP.
"At this time, it still appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children. However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects," the AAP said.
While children are at less risk of developing severe symptoms due to COVID-19, a rare inflammatory syndrome — called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C — has been linked to COVID-19.
"MIS-C is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C may have a fever and various symptoms, including abdominal (gut) pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired." according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of March 29, 3,185 total cases of MIS-C and 36 deaths had been reported in the U.S. as a result of MIS-C, according to the CDC.
Upticks in cases have occurred two to five weeks after COVID-19 peaks and have followed the spread of initial infections from urban to rural areas, researchers said in early April. More recent data indicates there’s another emerging peak in the pediatric condition consistent with that trend, according to the CDC.
Researchers in the United States and abroad are beginning trials involving younger children to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for each age group. Though the first vaccines are going to adults who are most at risk from the coronavirus, ending the pandemic will require vaccinating children too, experts say.
So far in the U.S., teen testing is furthest along: Pfizer and Moderna expect to release results soon showing how two doses of their vaccines performed in the 12 and older crowd. Pfizer is currently authorized for use starting at age 16; Moderna is for people 18 and older.
But younger children may need different doses than teens and adults. Moderna recently began a study similar to Pfizer’s new trial, as both companies hunt the right dosage of each shot for each age group as they work toward eventually vaccinating babies as young as six months.
And because children’s infection rates are so low — they make up about 13% of COVID-19 cases documented in the U.S. — the main focus of pediatric studies isn’t counting numbers of illnesses. Instead, researchers are measuring whether the vaccines rev up youngsters’ immune systems much like they do adults — suggesting they’ll offer similar protection.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.