COVID Hospitalizations Rising in Kids Too Young for Vaccine – Consumer Health NewsJanuary 13, 2022
THURSDAY, Jan. 13, 2022 (HealthDay News) — While COVID-19 has taken the lives of many children and caused serious illness for many more, it is generally agreed that the virus is much less likely to inflict severe damage in the young.
But new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed a concerning trend: The rate of COVID-19-linked hospitalizations among children younger than 5 grew substantially last week, while the same rate for children between the ages of 5 and 17 remained relatively stable.
The latest numbers have sparked concerns that the youngest members of society may be more vulnerable to the Omicron variant than their older peers. The affected children, ages 4 and under, are in the age group not yet eligible for a coronavirus vaccine.
While scientists’ knowledge of Omicron is still evolving, experts say the upsurge in pediatric hospitalizations does not indicate that Omicron is more dangerous to young children than other variants were.
Overall, the CDC report revealed that the record number of infections in recent weeks has triggered a hospitalization surge.
But among children, the under-5 age group experienced the most notable increase.
During the week of Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, the CDC’s data shows that more than 5 in every 100,000 hospitalized children ages 0 to 4 were infected with COVID-19, which is nearly double the rate reported in early December before the Omicron variant began to take over. For older children, ages 5 to 17, the rate was significantly lower, at 1.4 per 100,000, in keeping with past weeks.
Throughout the pandemic, children have only made up a small subset of hospital admissions, and the hospitalization rates for all other age groups remain much higher than those seen in children.
Still, the surge in pediatric hospital admissions is worrying. But according to Dr. Richard Malley, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, the numbers are not particularly surprising. Malley said the increase in hospitalizations is a predictable consequence of the unprecedented case counts.
“If the risk of catching the virus has increased, even if children are generally less susceptible to severe consequences from that infection, that small number of children who would normally have been hospitalized due to COVID increases,” he explained.
To add to the uncertainty, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has emphasized that hospitalization rates can be distorted by “incidental” cases. The CDC’s data, she said, includes children who tested positive for COVID-19 but may be in the hospital for other reasons. “Many children are hospitalized with COVID as opposed to because of COVID,” Walensky said in December.
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“Hospitals have gotten very good at screening everybody who gets admitted to the hospital,” Malley explained. “So now, people are being hospitalized for one reason, and then a positive test comes back and gets reported as a child…