Sep 27, 2021 - COVID

COVID surging among Ohio's youth

Illustration of a pattern of covid cells.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

COVID-19's Delta variant is sending more young people into Ohio hospitals than ever before.

Why it matters: The recent spike is putting a major strain on healthcare systems. It's also threatening Ohio's ability to keep children in classrooms.

  • Nationwide Children's Hospital chief medical officer Dr. Rustin Morse told Axios that COVID hospitalizations were a "non-issue" in the spring and summer — then came the Delta variant.
  • Hospitals facing staffing shortages and an unseasonable spike of respiratory syncytial virus, which usually peaks in winter, created a "perfect storm."
  • "The way we get out of this pandemic is by vaccinating people," Morse said.
Graph of Ohio's COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Data: The Ohio Hospital Association; Chart: Tyler Buchanan/Axios

State of play: Ohioans under 29 years old are the state's least vaccinated age group, partially because COVID vaccines aren't yet available for kids under 11.

  • One could be coming within "weeks," though kids can't get vaccinated without parental permission, Morse said.

The latest: In an attempt to boost vaccination rates, Gov. Mike DeWine announced a new "Vax 2 School" lottery.

  • Ohioans between 12-25 years old who receive a COVID vaccine will be eligible to win one of five $100,000 scholarships or 50 $10,000 scholarships for college or career training.
  • Registration information is coming soon. Drawings begin the week of Oct. 11.

Flashback: DeWine drew national attention — along with praise, criticism and copycats — with Ohio's Vax-a-Million lottery earlier this year that awarded five $1 million prizes and five full-ride college scholarships.

What they're saying: Micah Berman, associate professor of public health law at Ohio State University, said this new program, like its predecessor, might produce a short-term bump in vaccinations.

  • "But it's certainly not enough to meet the moment," he told Axios.
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