A four-year-old girl who contracted COVID-19 has died, according to Texas health authorities, with her mother admitting she had been anti-vaccination prior to her daughter's death.
Kali Cook died on Tuesday, September 7 (local time) within hours of developing symptoms of COVID-19, becoming the youngest victim of the virus in Galveston County, a division of the US state of Texas.
In an interview with local newspaper, Galveston County's The Daily News, Kali's mother, Karra Harwood, admitted she hadn't been vaccinated and had previously been against the idea of inoculation.
"I was one of the people that was anti, I was against it," she told The Daily News. "Now, I wish I never was."
Harwood said most of her family had been quarantined after contracting the virus, adding that both her and her fiancé were out of work due to the pandemic.
"I ended up getting COVID and was diagnosed on Monday [September 6]," Harwood said.
"I came home and was isolated. I tried to stay away from her and didn't want her and my other kids to get it."
The four-year-old died in her sleep at around 7am last Tuesday, mere hours after developing a fever in the night, says Harwood. The child had no underlying health conditions or diagnosed immune disorders.
Kali had not tested positive for COVID-19 prior to her death, but was confirmed to be infected with the virus when she was examined by the Galveston County Medical Examiner's Office.
Dickinson Independent School District confirmed to The Daily News that Kali, who was a student at K. E. Little Elementary in Bacliff, had not been in class since September 1. Contact tracing performed by the health district showed no students or adults who were in close contact with Kali at the school had tested positive for the virus, Galveston County Local Health Authority Philip Keiser told the outlet - suggesting Kali was infected at home.
Children rarely become seriously ill with COVID-19 and tend to recover quickly. There has been some debate around whether children should be vaccinated against the disease - vaccination in New Zealand is currently only available to those aged 12 and over.
Kali was also not eligible for the jab in the US due to her age.
Speaking to The Daily News, Keiser urged parents to seek medical care if their children are sick and presenting symptoms of the virus, calling Kali's death a tragedy.
"This is a terrible thing, but I think people need to know about it."