Pediatric COVID Cases, Hospital Admissions Higher Than Ever

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Jan. 5, 2022 -- Weekly COVID-19 cases in children have passed 300,000 for the first time since the pandemic started, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

The rate of new COVID-related hospital admissions also reached a new high of 0.74 per 100,000 children as of Dec. 31. The highest rate seen before the current Omicron-fueled surge was 0.47 per 100,000 in early September, data from the CDC shows.

Over 325,000 new cases of COVID-19 in children were reported by state and territorial health departments during the week ending Dec. 30, surpassing the previous high of 252,000 recorded in early September and exceeding the previous week’s count by almost 64%, the AAP and CHA said in their weekly COVID report.

New cases were up in all four regions of the United States, with the Northeast adding the most newly infected children and setting a new high for the fifth consecutive week. The South was just behind for the week but still well off the record it reached in September. The Midwest was third but recorded its busiest week ever, while the West was fourth and nowhere near its previous high, the AAP/CHA report showed.

The total number of child cases since the pandemic began is almost 7.9 million, according to data collected from 49 states (excluding New York), the District of Columbia, New York City, Puerto Rico, and Guam. That figure represents 17.4% of all cases reported in the United States, and the rate of COVID infection is up to almost 10,500 per 100,000 children, meaning that 1 in 10 children have been infected.

While children are still less likely to be hospitalized than adults, the gap appears to be closing. On Jan. 2, there were 2,343 children and 87,690 adults in the hospital with confirmed COVID, a ratio of 37 adults for each child. But on Sept. 5, at the height of the previous surge, the ratio of hospitalized adults (93,647) to children (1,632) was 57:1, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

And new admissions show a similar pattern. The 0.74 admissions per 100,000 children recorded on Dec. 31 was lower than, for example, those for adults ages 30-39 years (2.7 per 100,000) or 50-59 years (4.25 per 100,000). But on Sept. 5, the corresponding figures were 0.46 (children), 2.74 (ages 30-39), and 5.03 (ages 50-59), based on the Health and Human Services data.

A Look at Vaccinations

The vaccination response to Omicron has been more subdued and somewhat inconsistent. First vaccinations were down among eligible children for the week of Dec. 23-29. Before that, vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds and 12- to 15-year-olds were down for the second week of December and then up a bit (5.6% and 14.3%, respectively) during the third week. Meanwhile, first vaccines among 16- to 17-year-olds increased by 63.2%, CDC’s COVID Data Tracker shows.

Less than a quarter (23.5%) of children ages 5-11 received at least one dose of the vaccine in the first 2 months they were eligible, and only 14.7% are fully vaccinated.

Among the older children, 61.2% of 12- to 15-year-olds have received at least one dose, while the same is true for 67.4% of 16- to 17-year-olds. About 51.3% of 12- to 15-year-olds are fully vaccinated, while 57.6% of 16- to 17-year-olds are fully vaccinated, the CDC said.

At the state level, Massachusetts and Hawaii have the highest vaccination rates for children ages 12-17 years, with 86% having received a least one dose. Vermont is highest for children ages 5-11, at 56%. The lowest rates can be found in Wyoming (38%) for 12- to 17-year-olds and in Mississippi (6%) for 5- to 11-year-olds, the AAP said in a separate report.

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