Children’s COVID Hospital Admissions Hit Record High In U.S.

U.S. hospital admissions for children with COVID-19 have hit a record high as coronavirus case numbers surge amid the rise of the omicron variant.

Admissions for children sick with the virus increased 66% over the previous week to an average rate of 378 per day for the week ending Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The previous peak occurred in early September, with a daily average of 342 hospital admissions for children with COVID-19.

The nation, meanwhile, tallied a total of more than 550,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The previous peak was just over 294,000 in January 2021.

A daily average of 355,990 COVID infections in people of all ages was reported last week.

While the raging omicron variant does not appear to be more severe than earlier variants, including among children, the sheer volume of cases means more people experience serious problems.

Tens of thousands of children have been hospitalized with the coronavirus in the last few months alone. More than 1,000 children have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

“It’s just so heartbreaking,” Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious disease expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told The Associated Press on Thursday. “It was hard enough last year, but now you know that you have a way to prevent all this” with vaccinations, he said.

Offit added that none of the vaccine-eligible children admitted to his hospital with COVID-19 last week had actually been vaccinated. “They’re struggling to breathe, coughing, coughing, coughing,” Offit said. “A handful were sent to the ICU to be sedated … parents are crying.”

Kristin Moffitt, an infectious disease physician at Boston Children’s Hospital, told Bloomberg: “We are going to feel this surge for weeks to come.”

Vaccinations only recently became available for children ages 5 and up. Only 15% of children ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated, and only 53% of those ages 12 to 17 are, according to the CDC.

And while children 5 and older can get the Pfizer vaccine, they are still not eligible for boosters, which provide important protection against omicron.

The majority of children hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, according to the CDC. Unvaccinated adolescents 12 to 17 years old were 10 times more likely to be hospitalized than their fully vaccinated peers.

Individuals ages 18 to 29, who also tend to have lower vaccination rates than older Americans, are also being admitted to the hospital for COVID in growing numbers.

Roughly 62% of the U.S. is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. But only about 33% of fully vaccinated adults have gotten boosters.

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