At their highest, the weekly pediatric Covid-19 hospitalization rates were four times higher during a period of Omicron dominance than during a period of Delta dominance. Children under 5 years of age experienced the largest increase, with hospitalization rates being more than five times higher under Omicron than under Delta.
It had been hoped that a coronavirus vaccine for children under the age of 5 would be available in late February or early March, after Pfizer and BioNTech applied to the US Food and Drug Administration for a two-dose emergency authorization. series of their childhood vaccine for children 6 months to 4 years old.
But on Friday, the FDA said it would wait for vaccine manufacturers to submit data from an ongoing trial of a three-dose regimen to these younger children before moving on. Data are expected to be available in April.
The new study found that the proportion of pediatric patients admitted to a hospital primarily for Covid-19 was consistent in both the Delta and Omicron periods, suggesting that “random admissions do not account for the increase in hospitalization rates observed in Omicron. period. ” according to the study.
In December, when both variants were circulating, hospitalization rates were six times higher among unvaccinated adolescents aged 12 to 17 than they were among fully vaccinated adolescents. Admission rates by vaccination status were not analyzed for other age groups who were not eligible to be vaccinated throughout the study period.
During periods of both Delta and Omicron prevalence from July to December, unvaccinated adolescents were twice as likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit than those vaccinated; about 30% of unvaccinated patients were admitted to the intensive care unit compared to 15.5% of the vaccinated adolescents.
In general, children and adolescents were less likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit or require ventilation under Omicron than they were under Delta.
“Vaccination of eligible persons, in addition to other prevention strategies such as masking, is essential to reduce the incidence of severe Covid-19 among children and adolescents,” the study authors wrote.
“All persons eligible for vaccination should receive and keep up to date with COVID-19 vaccines in order to reduce the risk of serious illness for themselves and others with whom they come into contact, including children who are currently young people to be vaccinated. “
Children 5 years of age and older are eligible for the Pfizer / BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Persons aged 12 and over are also eligible for Pfizer booster shots. Children under 5 years of age are not eligible to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
In the United States, the vaccination rate among children lags significantly behind that of adults. Less than a quarter (24%) of children ages 5 to 11 and 57% of teens ages 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated, compared to about three-quarters (75%) of adults, according to CDC data.
The authors of the study also highlight the importance of addressing racial and ethnic differences in vaccination. More than 42% of unvaccinated adolescents admitted with Covid-19 were black.
For this study, data from approximately 2,000 pediatric admissions recorded by the CDC’s Covid-19 Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network (COVID-NET) were analyzed. A period of Delta Prevalence captured admissions between July and mid-December, and a period of Omicron Prevalence captured the second half of December. The omicron rise peaked after the period of this study.