March 9, 2022

In The News: Vaccine Protection for Children During Omicron

CNN reports a large CDC-funded study compared the vaccination status of children 5-17 years-old who were treated for COVID-19 in emergency departments, urgent care centers and hospitals across 10 states between April 2021 and February 2022. It found many vaccinated kids experienced breakthrough infections during the Omicron wave but protection against hospitalization remained strong.

The youngest age cohort eligible for vaccination, 5-11 year-olds, were found to be about 46% less likely to need urgent care clinic or emergency department care due to COVID-19 than their unvaccinated peers. The vaccinated were also less likely to be hospitalized from infection than unvaccinated: 59 unvaccinated kids were admitted after testing positive while only two vaccinated kids were.

According to the CDC, about 26% of kids ages 5-11 and 58% of those ages 12-17 have been fully vaccinated. The latter age group, which receives a larger dosage, saw greater protection against all variants. Though protection waned by the time of the Omicron wave, those who received a booster shot had restored protection against the highly-transmissible variant. Boosted teens aged 16-18 were about 81% less likely to need to see a doctor for COVID-19.

Study authors acknowledge their work was observational though the data was adjusted to try to account for meaningful differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. There could have been additional differences between these groups, likelihood of masking or physical distancing, that might have influenced their results. Regardless, researchers are confident the data shows strong, real-world efficacy of the vaccines in protecting children.

Kids should stay up to date on their vaccines, including boosters for adolescents ages 12-18 who are eligible. Pfizer is currently testing a booster dose for grade-school aged children, though it is still likely months away.

PIDS member and one of the study’s authors, Nikola Klein, is quoted regarding boosters, “We have pretty good evidence that the booster really increased the protection for 16- to 17-year-olds, and I think that’s shown pretty nicely in the paper, and it’s not unreasonable to expect that might be down the road for 5 to 11 year olds.” She is joined in the story by fellow members, Robert Frenck, Jennifer Nayak and Paul Offit.

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