By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Alarmingly low levels of vaccinations among children, especially in Philadelphia, has the number of COVID cases increasing dramatically. An effort to reverse that will start next week with vaccines being offered in some schools.

Doctors say this is a critical mission to find new ways to get more children vaccinated.

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The number of children with COVID-19 has increased 78% in two weeks. Most cases are mild, but there’s now also a record number of children hospitalized with the virus, nearly 5,000 nationwide.

“Unfortunately we’ve had a couple of fatalities here as well from COVID,” Dr. Dan Taylor said.

Dr. Taylor, with St. Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia, says their testing positivity rate is 52% and most are not vaccinated.

“There’s still some hesitancy about a vaccine that’s come out that is relatively new, although the technology has been there for 20 years,” Taylor said.

Nationwide, only 16% of 5 to 11-year-olds are fully vaccinated. In Pennsylvania, among 5 to 9-year-olds, 24% have received one dose and in Philadelphia, it’s just 7%.

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“We’re seeing huge inequities between Black and brown children versus white and Asian kids,” Taylor said.

Among African Americans in Philadelphia between the ages of 5 and 11, only 12% have received one dose of the vaccine.

“Part of it is honestly opportunity and access,” Dr. Ala Stanford said.

Dr. Stanford, with the Black Doctor’s Consortium, will start offering vaccines in seven Philadelphia schools after the MLK holiday.

“We have identified schools that have high positivity rates for coronavirus or low vax communities,” Stanford said. “We’re going to be in a different school every week for the next 30 days. I think there are going to be people who remain reluctant about vaccination but that’s where the persistence and the presence of being there matters.”

The school vaccine effort is being done with FEMA and the Philadelphia Health Department. In addition to students and staff, family members will also be able to get vaccinated.

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An information town hall about the program is being held Thursday at 7 p.m. on Zoom. Click here for more information.

Stephanie Stahl