A worrying trend among children too young to be vaccinated highlights the need for older children and adults to get vaccinated to help protect those around them.
In the United States, hospitalizations of children under five with COVID-19 have skyrocketed in recent weeks to their highest level since the start of the pandemic, according to government data on the age group alone not yet eligible for the vaccine.
The disturbing trend in children too young to be vaccinated underscores the need for older children and adults to get vaccinated to help protect those around them, Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Friday ( CDC).
Since mid-December, as the highly contagious variant of Omicron has spread furiously across the country, the hospitalization rate of these youngest children has risen to more than four per 100,000 children, from 2.5 per cent. 000.
The rate among children aged five to 17 is about one in 100,000, according to CDC data, which comes from more than 250 hospitals in 14 states.
Overall, “Pediatric hospitalizations are at their highest rate compared to any other time in the pandemic,” Walensky said.
She noted that about 50 percent of children aged 12 to 18, and only 16 percent of those aged 5 to 11, are fully immunized.
The overall rate of hospitalization among children and adolescents is consistently lower than that of any other age group. And they represent less than five percent of average daily new hospital admissions, according to the CDC.
On Tuesday, the average number of patients under 18 admitted to hospital per day with COVID-19 was 766, double the figure reported just two weeks ago.
The trend among very young children is due to high hospitalization rates in five states: Georgia, Connecticut, Tennessee, California and Oregon, with the largest increases in Georgia, according to the CDC.
Less serious, more cases
During a briefing, Walensky said the figures included children hospitalized with COVID-19 and those admitted for other reasons but found infected.
The CDC also said the increase could be in part due to how hospitalizations for COVID-19 in this age group are defined: a positive virus test within 14 days of hospitalization for any reason. it would be.
The severity of illness in children during the Omicron wave appears to be lower than it was with the Delta variant, said Dr. John McGuire, chief of intensive care at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
“Most of the COVID + children in the hospital are actually not here for the COVID-19 disease,” McGuire said in an email. “They are here for other issues but have turned out to be positive.”
The country’s top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said earlier this week that Omicron appears to cause less severe disease across the board, but the large number of infections due to its extreme contagiousness will mean many more children will be infected, and some of them will end up in the hospital.
Fauci also said that many children hospitalized with COVID-19 have other health conditions that make them more susceptible to complications from the virus. This includes obesity, diabetes, and lung disease.
Many were hoping the New Year might bring a vaccine for young children, but Pfizer announced last month that two doses did not provide as much protection as hoped for young people aged two to four.
The Pfizer study has been updated to give everyone under five a third dose, and data is expected in early spring.