By Andrea Nakano

NOVATO (KPIX) — Hospitalizations for children under age 5 in the U.S. are at the highest levels since the start of the pandemic. Five states are driving those numbers up, including California.

“From a local experience, we’re seeing the highest numbers we’ve seen since the pandemic began,” said Dr. Grace Lee, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stanford Children’s Health.

She said that more unvaccinated children with pre-existing conditions are being admitted into hospitals.

Kids are still not being hospitalized as frequently as adults. Dr. Lee says this highlights the effectiveness of vaccines.

“It has been incredible in terms of seeing the impact of vaccination and what happens to severe disease. It is clear that vaccines can protect adults and kids from severe disease,” Dr. Lee said.

Reports of Omicron impacting children have many parents concerned. Billy Singerman waited as his 13-year-old daughter got her booster.

“We’re real happy about it because we’re scared. We have a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old,” Singerman said.

The state of California recently expanded eligibility for the booster to young people ages 12 to 15.

Shereen Daly is an elementary school teacher. She says parents have stepped up to test their kids and masking is being strictly enforced at school.

“It’s so virulent, you have to be extra vigilant,” Daly said.

Dr. Lee says masking is essential but testing and isolating when you have symptoms are also important.

“I think we’re going to have to learn how to live with this and it’s a matter of getting used to it. Making sure that we continue to manage it and know what to do and feel comfortable with how we can protect ourselves and how we can protect others,” Dr. Lee said.