COVID-19 hospitalization rate 10 times higher among unvaccinated vs. vaccinated kids
Unvaccinated adolescents are hospitalized for COVID-19 at 10 times the rate of their vaccinated peers, and ED visits and hospital admissions for COVID-19 are highest in states with low vaccine coverage, according to two new MMWR reports.
The reports were published Friday amid an ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, and as many schools in the United States have opened for in-person learning.
Only children aged 12 to 17 years are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in the U.S., and experts estimate that younger kids may have access to vaccines by December.
According to the first report — which used data from COVID-NET, the CDC’s COVID-19 hospitalization surveillance network — the weekly COVID-19 hospitalization rate among children aged 0 to 4 years was nearly 10 times higher during the week ending Aug. 14 compared with the week ending June 26.
From June 20 to July 31, the rate of hospitalization among unvaccinated children aged 12 to 17 years was 10.1 times higher than among fully vaccinated peers, the report states.
By the end of July, according to the report, only 32% of eligible adolescents in the U.S. had completed a COVID-19 vaccinations series.
According to the second report, COVID-19 cases, ED visits and hospital admissions increased from June to August among children aged 0 to 17 years. ED visits and hospital admissions in a 2-week period in August were also higher in states — primarily in the South — with lower population vaccination coverage, and lower in states with higher vaccination coverage, the researchers reported.
“Children and adolescents can experience severe acute COVID-19, which might require
mechanical ventilation, or result in other complications, such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children and persistent symptoms from COVID-19,” they wrote. “Pediatric patients who have underlying medical conditions might be at risk for more severe disease.”
The CDC continues to recommend that unvaccinated people aged 2 years or older — in addition to vaccinated people in areas of high transmission — wear masks indoors, that centers serving children who are too young to be vaccinated implement universal masking and that all eligible patients receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The AAP has ramped up efforts to convince parents to vaccinate eligible children, including through a CDC-backed advertising campaign. It also has discouraged providers from administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine off-label to children aged younger than 12 years since it won full approval last week.