Health officials in Mississippi said a teenager with a "common" underlying health condition died from COVID-19 recently, marking the state’s fourth pediatric fatality related to the virus since the pandemic began.
In a press conference held Wednesday, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state’s health officer, said Mississippi is seeing "a phenomenal increase" in COVID-19 cases, putting significant stress on the health system due to an increase in hospitalizations. Dobbs pinned the rise in cases on low vaccination numbers combined with rapid spread of the delta variant and an increase in activity among residents.
"We know that a majority of transmission is occurring among and from unvaccinated folks," he said, noting that about 95% of new cases are among this population.
However, he noted that spillover from this transmission is impacting vaccinated individuals, sometimes with fatal implications. Dobbs said that about 20% of the state’s COVID-19 fatalities are occurring among fully vaccinated individuals, with the majority of these fatal breakthrough cases occurring in people over 65 with underlying medical issues or who are immunocompromised.
He also noted an uptick in hospitalizations of people under the age of 50.
"Sadly, we are reporting the death of a teenager in the state of Mississippi, who died from COVID-19," he said. "We now have four deaths in children in the state of Mississippi, two in the age range of 11 to 17, one between 6 and 10 and one between ages 1 and 5."
He did not reveal where the deceased teen was from, nor an exact age, but said the underlying illness is "a common medical issue, it’s nothing that people don’t live with every day in the state of Mississippi commonly."
"This is a real tragedy and speaks to the importance of us preventing transmission," Dobbs said. "Although severe outcomes in children are rare, when we have a whole lot of transmission we have a lot of cases we are unfortunately going to see this type of tragedy from time to time."
The state currently has about 34% of its population fully vaccinated, which is among the lowest percentage in the country.