Hospital admissions of U.S. children younger than 5 — the only group ineligible for vaccination — have reached their peak since the start of the pandemic, according to new data from the CDC.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said the higher numbers show the importance of vaccination for all eligible groups.
“This is the highest number of pediatric hospitalizations we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, which we said about Delta until now,” she said at a CDC briefing Friday. “This very well may be that there are just more cases out there, and our children are more vulnerable when they have more cases surrounding them.”
Despite the skyrocketing admissions, hospitalizations are still relatively low for children, she said. The hospitalization rate for children under 5 is 4 in 100,000, and about 1 in 100,000 in children 5-17.
Walensky said not all children are being hospitalized for COVID-19 — some are admitted for unrelated issues and test positive but don’t have symptoms.
“We are still learning more about the severity of Omicron in children,” she said, noting that just over 50% of children 12-18 are fully vaccinated, while only 16% of those ages 5-11 are fully vaccinated.
Friday’s teleconference was the first CDC briefing in several months and comes on the heels of recent guideline updates for testing and isolation that have left the American public dumbfounded. When asked why the briefing was held, Walensky said there had been interest in hearing more from the CDC, saying, “I anticipate this will be the first of many briefings.”
She also defended the confusing guideline changes, saying, “We’re in an unprecedented time with the speed of Omicron cases rising…This is hard, and I am committed to continuing to improve as we learn more about the science and communicate that to you.”
News briefing, CDC, Jan. 7, 2022.