omicron: Covid: Unvaccinated children have been hit hardest by Omicron wave, CDC report says – Times of India


WASHINGTON: Nearly 90% of U.S. children hospitalized this winter during the Omicron wave for Covid had not been vaccinated, according to a government study.
Omicron caused a record number of pediatric hospitalizations from December to February, and national data on hundreds of children ages 5 to 11 emphasize the importance of vaccination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in the report.
“Raising vaccination rates among children, especially among racial and ethnic minority groups disproportionately affected by Covid-19, is critical to avoiding Covid-19-associated hospitalization and serious consequences,” the CDC said.
While Omicron is generally considered milder than previous variants, admissions to pediatric intensive care units were 1.7 times higher in January, when Omicron reigned, than when Delta peaked in October. The high rates were likely due to Omicron’s increased spread and the sheer number of infections it caused, the authors said.
Nearly 20% of children hospitalized during the Omicron wave ended up in intensive care. The risk of serious illness was significantly higher for people with diabetes or obesity, and only a third of children hospitalized had no underlying conditions, the report found.
Unlike adults with weakened immune systems, immunocompromised children were not found to be at higher risk for severe Covid. The finding is consistent with flu-related hospitalizations and may be due to a lower threshold for hospitalization in children with asthma or other medical conditions, the authors said.
Vaccine eligibility was expanded to include children ages 5 to 11 in November, just months before the Omicron variant caused a massive surge in cases. But data from last month shows that about a third of these children have received two doses.
Black children accounted for the majority of unvaccinated children and more than a third of hospitalizations during the study period. According to the report, they were more likely to develop severe symptoms than white or Hispanic children.
“Implementing strategies that result in equitable reception of the Covid-19 vaccine in children is a public health priority,” the report said.
Booster shots are still not allowed for children ages 5 to 11, but partners Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have said that a third dose of their vaccine increased antibodies against the Omicron strain by 36-fold in this age group. The companies plan to apply to regulators for authorization of the booster injection soon.

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