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COVID-19 hospitalizations among children in the last month have jumped more than 50%, but experts say Omicron is not more dangerous for kids

A young boy receives the COVID vaccine.
Owen Malloy, 9, receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11 years from Lurie Children’s hospital registered nurse Jeanne Bailey at Lurie Children’s hospital Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in Chicago.

  • COVID-19-related hospitalizations among children have spiked in the last month, according to new data.
  • In 10 states, the number of kids admitted in the last four weeks has more than doubled, NBC reported.
  • But experts say low vaccination rates, as well as other explainable factors, are likely to blame.

As the Omicron variant continues to wreak havoc across the country, new data suggests children, who were previously far less affected by past COVID-19 variants, are now bearing the brunt of virus-related hospitalizations as the country battles another major spike in cases.

But despite the worrisome rise in pediatric hospitalizations, experts say new data suggests the Omicron variant is not actually more dangerous for children and may even be causing milder illness among kids, according to The New York Times.

Low vaccination rates among children over five and vaccine ineligibility for kids younger than five are likely to blame for the rise in pediatric admissions recently, The Times reported. The rapid spread of Omicron also means the rise in hospital admissions is at least partially due to the increased number of children who are becoming infected with the virus. 

The average number of US children hospitalized with COVID-19 increased more than 50 percent over the last month, according to a new NBC News analysis of Department of Health and Human Services data. 

Pediatric hospitalizations increased by more than 650 over the last four weeks, with 1,270 children hospitalized across the country on November 29, and 1,933 admitted as of December 26, according to the outlet. 

The data does not identify whether the hospitalized children are vaccinated or vaccine eligible.

Omicron’s prevalence has meant hospitalizations among adults have also spiked, with a 29% increase in the same time period. But the steady spike in adult hospitalizations highlights the rapid rate at which children are being admitted —nearly double the rate of adults.

Ten states in particular, as well as Washington DC and Puerto Rico have seen the number of kids hospitalized with COVID-19 in the last four weeks more than double, with Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio leading the pack, according to NBC. 

As of Tuesday, the US is averaging 260 pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations per day, a nearly 30% increase from just last week, according to CBS News.

New York raised an alarm bell in recent days, with the state department of health alerting physicians in a Christmas Eve notice of an “upward trend” in pediatric hospitalizations, particularly in the New York City area. 

The memo did not specify how many children are currently hospitalized in the state but said admissions rose “fourfold” between December 5 and December 19. Approximately half of those admissions were vaccine-ineligible children ages five and younger, according to the notice. 

In the past week, none of the New York pediatric patients between 5-11 were fully vaccinated and only one-quarter of patients ages 12-17 were fully vaccinated, the memo said. 

“We need to get child vaccinations up. We need to get them higher than they are, particularly in the 5- to 11-year-old age group,” Mary T. Bassett, acting commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, told CBS. 

COVID-19 cases among children tend to be more mild compared to adult infections, but kids are at risk of developing severe complications including long COVID and MIS-C, an inflammatory syndrome that attacks multiple organs. 

Still, experts told The Times there is reason for optimism, as infected children are still much less likely than adults to become ill or severly symptomatic.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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