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The omicron variant of the coronavirus hospitalized U.S. children at about five times the rate during the previous delta surge, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In a report published Tuesday, the agency wrote that from March 2020 through Feb. 19, 2022, weekly hospitalization rates peaked during omicron predominance in the week ending Jan. 8, 2022, at 14.5 per 100,000 infants and other kids under 5 years old.
For infants younger than 6 months old, hospitalizations were “approximately six times as high during the peak week of omicron predominance as during delta predominance.”
“Omicron-predominant versus delta-predominant hospitalization rate ratios were also elevated among infants and children aged 6–23 months and 2–4 years,” the report said. “Monthly ICU admission rates were approximately 3.5 times as high during the omicron predominance peak in January 2022 as during the delta predominance peak in September 2021.”
A child and parent hold hands in a hospital bed.
Pediatric ICU admission rates during the omicron predominance peaked at approximately 3.5 times the peak rate during delta predominance, with approximately 63% without underlying medical conditions and infants under 6 months making up 44%.
The length of hospital stays was also slightly shorter during the omicron spike, with 6% fewer hospitalized children under 5 years old requiring intensive care.
Hospitalization rates among infants and children age 0-4 years decreased by the week ending on Feb. 19, 2022.
Limitations to the study include that COVID-19–associated hospitalizations and viral coinfections may have been missed; that periods of variant predominance are not exclusive to a given variant; that it was not possible to account for seasonality or changes in public health policies and treatment practices over time; and that the findings may not be nationally generalizable.
Nevertheless, the CDC said its conclusions underscored the importance of devising strategies to prevent COVID-19 among infants and young children and encouraged all eligible parties, including pregnant women, to receive and stay up to date with vaccines.
Infants and young children belong to the only demographic in the country who are not yet eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
Vaccine-makers Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech are developing vaccines for children under 5 years old.
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