HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Amid an ongoing COVID surge, Hawaii pediatricians are becoming increasingly concerned about the threat of long COVID in kids ― and the low vaccination rate for the youngest eligible children.

Dr. Monica Singer, a pediatrician with Kapiolani Medical Center, says her practice has been more busy with sick kids testing positive for COVID and also the flu.

She says sometimes it’s both.

“We are still seeing a lot of runny noses, coughs and colds, fevers, GI symptoms in kids,” said Singer, who is also a pediatric diseases doctor with the State Department of Health.

She warns COVID-19 is not at a point where it’s seasonal disease like a cold.

“It’s really hard for me to say that it’s not a big deal or it’s just going to be a mild cold. That’s what we hope for,” said Singer.

“I’ve still been admitting children, especially young children, with COVID-19 infections,” she added.

Singer is also worried about young patients with long COVID symptoms ― like breathing issues, fatigue and concentration problems two to four weeks or even two months after an initial infection.

“A lot of kids were having trouble catching their breath even sitting up at rest in a classroom. Some kids were complaining they just couldn’t concentrate in the classroom,’ said Singer.

“These are kids that never had any issues before,” she added.

Studies show vaccinations can help with long COVID, but Hawaii’s younger children are lagging other age groups.

In 12-to 17-year-olds in Hawaii, 74% completed their primary series and 24% got a booster.

But for 5-to 11-year-olds, only 38% were fully vaccinated and 2% got a first booster.

“Vaccination can protect you from long COVID so we are encouraging people to vaccinate their children,” said Singer.

With an ever-evolving virus, doctors are trying to learn more on who’s at risk for long COVID.

“It’s really distressing for families and especially for parents who are like I don’t know what else to do,” she said.

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