Pediatric infectious diseases specialists at children’s hospitals across the country – D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Cleveland, Palo Alto – reached for this story by CNBC reported more pediatric hospitalizations due to COVID-19. An average of roughly 5,100 kids, from infants to 17-year-olds, were hospitalized as of January 20, according to a seven-day average of DHHS data, up 26% over the past two weeks.
Compared to previous waves, Omicron’s transmissibility appears to be the cause of the high hospitalizations rather than severity of illness with prior strains. Also different for this wave, children aged 5-15 are now eligible for vaccination. The CDC reports roughly 55% of 12–17-year-olds and 19% of 5-11-year-olds are fully vaccinated. Most of the children hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated, and to a lesser degree, vaccinated children with underlying conditions who are experiencing less severe symptoms than their unvaccinated peers.
Several PIDS members were contacted for the story, including Roberta DeBiasi, Allison Bartlett, Andi Shane, Camille Sabella, Grace Lee, and Sean O’Leary who is quoted, saying “We’re going to see more kids hospitalized with other things that also have Covid, because this is such a contagious variant and infection is so common right now. But we are also very much seeing a lot of kids hospitalized with Covid.”
Children continue to have the lowest hospitalization rate of any group, according to CDC data, with more than 94,000 admissions of children due to Covid. Two-thirds of children hospitalized with Covid present with one or more underlying health issues, obesity and severe asthma among the most common conditions. At least 1,000 children have died.
For those children who are hospitalized, and even those who are not, Covid could impact their long-term health. Some children who catch Covid may not require hospitalization at the time, but develop serious complications months later. That includes the estimated 6,000 children who have developed MIS-C. At least 55 of those children have died from the condition, according to the CDC.
New reporting suggests the Omicron wave has peaked and cases, along with hospitalizations, should begin to drop. MIS-C, however, usually develops two- to six-weeks after infection. That suggests a wave of MIS-C cases could be approaching children’s hospitals that just experienced the pandemic’s hospitalization high.