COVID hospitalizations soar for kids under five
Hospitalizations of U.S. children under 5 with COVID-19 soared in recent weeks to their highest level since the pandemic began, according to government data released Friday on the only age group not yet eligible for the vaccine.
The worrisome trend in children too young to be vaccinated underscores the need for older kids and adults to get their shots to protect those around them, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Please, for our youngest children, those who are not yet eligible for vaccination, it’s critically important that we surround them with people who are vaccinated to provide them protection. This includes at home, at daycare and preschool, and throughout our entire community," Walensky said.
Since mid-December, as the highly contagious omicron variant has spread furiously around the country, the hospitalization rate in these youngest children has surged to more than 4 in 100,000 youngsters, up from 2.5 per 100,000.
That compares with a current rate of about 1 per 100,000 for children ages 5 to 17, according to CDC data.
In a statement, Walensky said that while children still have the lowest rate of hospitalization of any age group, “pediatric hospitalizations are at their highest rate compared to any prior point in the pandemic.”
At a briefing, she said the numbers include children hospitalized because of COVID-19 and those admitted for other reasons but found to be infected.
She noted that just over 50% of children ages 12 to 18 are fully vaccinated and only 16% of those 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated.
As of Tuesday, the average number of children and teens admitted to the hospital per day with COVID-19 was 766, double the figure reported just two weeks ago.
At a White House briefing this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease expert, said many children hospitalized with COVID-19 have other health conditions that make them more susceptible to complications from the virus. That includes obesity, diabetes and lung disease.
Fauci and Walensky have emphasized that one of the best ways to protect the youngest children is to vaccinate everyone else.