Hospitalizations for children who are too young to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are on the rise.
According to government data released Friday on the only age group not yet eligible for the vaccination, hospitalizations of children under the age of five in the United States with COVID-19 have risen to their highest level since the epidemic began.
The alarming trend of toddlers who are too young to be vaccinated highlights the importance of older children and adults getting their immunizations to safeguard those around them, according to Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC.
As the extremely contagious omicron strain has spread fast across the country since mid-December, the hospitalization rate among these youngest infants has risen to moreover 4 in 100,000 children, up from 2.5 per 100,000 previously.
According to CDC data, the current rate for children aged 5 to 17 is approximately 1 per 100,000.
While children still have the lowest rate of hospitalization of any age group, Walensky noted in a statement that «pediatric hospitalizations are at their highest rate relative to any preceding time in the epidemic.»
She noted during a press conference that the figures include children hospitalized for COVID-19 and those hospitalised for other reasons but later discovered to be sick.
She pointed out that only about half of youngsters aged 12 to 18 are fully vaccinated, while just 16% of children aged 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated.
The average number of children and teenagers admitted to the hospital per day with COVID-19 was 766 as of Tuesday, more than double the number reported just two weeks ago.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said at a White House briefing this week that many children hospitalized with COVID-19 have other health issues that make them more vulnerable to the virus’s complications. Obesity, diabetes, and lung disease are all examples of this.
One of the best ways to protect the smallest children, according to Fauci and Walensky, is to vaccinate everyone else.
Booster injections appear to offer the strongest protection against omicron, according to data, and the CDC recently recommended them for children as young as 12 years old. Only 34% of those over the age of 65 who were already eligible received them.
The rise in hospitalizations only adds to parents’ anxiety about how to keep their babies and toddlers safe.
Emily Hojara and Eli Zilke of Sawyer, Michigan, are especially protective of their 2-year-old daughter Flora. They limit her contact with other children, and no guests, even grandparents, are permitted in the house unless they are masked.
«It’s been a fight, and I believe this new variety has set us behind,» Hojara added. «Just reminds you that that anxiety is hovering extremely close,» she said of the new hospitalization figures.
Hojara said of her daughter, «It’s scary that she can’t be vaccinated.»
Dr Jennifer Kusma, a physician at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital, said she’s observed an increase in the number of children admitted to the hospital with omicron, and while the majority aren’t seriously ill, she understands parents’ concerns.
«As a paediatrician, I wish we had that vaccine for these young children already,» Kusma added. However, she emphasized that, despite what may appear to be a long wait, parents can rest assured that vaccination testing is not rushed.
Many anticipated vaccinations for young children in the new year, but Pfizer said last month that two doses didn’t provide as much protection as hoped for in children aged 2 to 4.
The Pfizer trial has been modified to include a third dose for children under the age of five, and results are due in early spring.