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Nearly all teenagers admitted to intensive care units because of COVID-19 were unvaccinated, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Two doses of the vaccine “were highly effective against COVID-19–related hospitalization and ICU admission or the receipt of life support,” the authors of the study concluded.
The Pfizer vaccine prevented 94% of hospitalizations and was 98% effective in keeping the young patients out of the intensive care unit, the study said.
The CDC and 31 pediatric hospitals in 23 states conducted the study, in which researchers looked at data for 1,222 patients 12-18 years old hospitalized from June 1 to Oct. 25, 2021. Included were 445 teens hospitalized for COVID-19 and 777 hospitalized for other reasons.
The study said 40% of patients who tested positive were admitted to the ICU, and all but two were unvaccinated. All but one of them who needed life-supporting interventions, such as a ventilator, were unvaccinated.
“All seven deaths occurred in patients who were unvaccinated,” the study said.
The results appear to confirm the effectiveness of the COVID vaccines, Kathryn M. Edwards, md< scientific director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.
“Nearly all hospitalizations and deaths in this population could have been prevented by vaccination,” Edwards wrote.
Edwards said it was “distressing” that only 299 of the study participants were fully vaccinated, since the vaccine has been authorized for children 12-17 since May.
“Vigorous efforts must be expended to improve vaccination coverage among all children and especially among those at highest risk for severe covid-19,” she wrote.
The vaccination rate among younger teens is not high. CDC data shows 36% of children between 12 and 17 in the U.S. have not received a single dose of vaccine, compared to 25% of the total population.
The study noted that about three-fourths of the teenagers in the study had underlying medical conditions, such as obesity, and 70% attended in-person school.
New England Journal of Medicine: “Effectiveness of BNT162b2 Vaccine against Critical COVID-Sparing of Severe COVID-19 in Vaccinated Adolescents,” “Sparing of Severe COVID-19 in Vaccinated Adolescents.”
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