Covid-19 hospitalizations of children under the age of five in the United States have risen to their highest levels in recent weeks, according to government data released on Friday, the only age group yet to be vaccinated. not eligible.
Dr. Rochelle Valensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the worrying trend among children too young to receive vaccines highlights the need for adults and older children to receive their injections to protect those around them. CDC).
Since mid-December, as the highly contagious Omicron type spread rapidly across the country, the hospitalization rate among children under five has risen to more than four per 100,000 children, from 2.5 per 100,000. increase in comparison.
According to CDC data from more than 250 hospitals in 14 states, the rate for children ages 5 to 17 is one in 100,000.
Overall, “pediatric hospitalization is at the highest rate at any previous point in the epidemic,” Valensky said.
He said a little over 50% of children aged 12 to 18, and only 16% of children aged 5 to 11, are fully vaccinated.
The overall hospitalization rate among children and adolescents is lower than in any other age group. And it accounts for less than 5% of new daily hospital admissions, according to the CDC.
As of Tuesday, the average daily number of patients under the age of 18 hospitalized for Covid-19 stood at 766, more than double the number reported two weeks ago.
The CDC said the trend in younger children is driven by higher hospitalization rates in five states: Connecticut, Tennessee, California, Oregon and Georgia, with the latter increasing the strongest.
During a press conference, Valensky said the figures included children hospitalized for Covid-19 and children hospitalized for other reasons, but were found to have the infection.
The CDC also noted that the increase can be partly attributed to the way Covid-19 hospitalizations in this age group: clinical within 14 days of hospitalization for any reason. Virus detection in the test.
Dr. John McGuire, chief of intensive care at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said illness in children during the omicron wave appears to be less severe than in the delta version.
“Most of the hospital children who tested positive for Covid are not here because of Covid-19. They are here for other health problems, but they have tested positive,” McGuire said in an email.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease expert, said this week that omicron causes less severe disease overall, but the fact that it is so contagious due to the large number of infected people would mean that many More children will be affected and one percent of them will go to the hospital.
Fauci also said that many children hospitalized with COVID-19 have other health problems that make them more vulnerable to complications from the virus, such as obesity, diabetes and lung diseases.
Fauci and Valensky emphasize that one of the best ways to protect young children is to vaccinate everyone else.
Hospitalization only adds to the worry of some parents.
Emily Hojara and Ellie Zilke of Sawyer, Michigan, are taking extra steps to protect their daughter, Flora, who turns two in May. They limit their contact with other children, and they do not allow any visitors to enter the home without a mask, not even grandparents.
“It’s been a struggle, and now with this new version I think it has overtaken us,” Hojara said.
“It’s scary that she can’t be vaccinated,” she said, referring to her daughter.
Dr. Jennifer Kusma, a pediatrician at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, said she has noticed an increasing number of children hospitalized with Omicron, and while most are not critically ill, she is concerned about parents’ concerns. understand.
“I really wish we already had that vaccine for these little kids,” Kusama said. But he said what may seem like a long wait should reassure parents that vaccine trials are not being rushed.
Many believed the new year would bring a vaccine for young children, but Pfizer announced last month that the two doses did not provide the expected protection for children between two and four years old.
The Pfizer study has been updated to provide one-third of the dose for all people under the age of 5, and data are expected to be available in the spring.
On the other hand, on the same Friday the CDC released a report showing that Pfizer’s vaccine injections appeared to protect older children who develop a serious but rare problem related to Covid-19, including lung damage. Inflammation is involved. various parts.
Of 102 boys aged 12 to 18 who were hospitalized with this problem, two doses of Pfizer were administered at least 28 days before any of them needed an artificial respirator or other advanced life support. was not received. In contrast, 40% of illiterate children required such treatment.
The problem, called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, causes symptoms that can include persistent fever, abdominal pain, and skin rashes. Most children recover, but 55 deaths have been recorded.
According to a separate CDC report, children who have had COVID-19 are more than twice as likely to develop diabetes than children who do not have the virus. Scientists are investigating it, but say it appears to be because the virus attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.