Covid-19 Live Updates: Case and Vaccine News

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Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Babies and children under the age of 5 were hospitalized with coronavirus at much higher rates during the last US outbreak, when the highly transmissible variant of Omicron was dominant, compared to earlier periods of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hospitalizations for these children were about five times higher during the Omicron surge, between December 19 and February 19, than during the period when the Delta variant was dominant, between June 27 and December 18.

ICU admission rates have also risen dramatically among young children, peaking on January 8 this year.

Children of color under age 5 have ended up in hospitals at disproportionate rates. Only a third of the children were white, while 28% were Hispanic and 23% were black. Hispanics make up only 18% of the population and Black Americans 13%.

(Six percent of those hospitalizations were for Asian or other Pacific Islander children, roughly the same as their representation in the population.)

Experts say children of color are infected at higher rates because they are more likely to have parents who work in public-facing jobs, and more likely to live in poverty and in multigenerational households.

Although hospitalization rates for young children are still relatively low, compared to rates among older Americans, the virus poses particular risks for younger children and especially babies.

Infants six months and younger were the most vulnerable, accounting for almost half of hospitalizations in young children during the Omicron period. They were hospitalized at rates about six times higher at the peak of the Omicron surge, compared to the peak of the Delta wave. Two infants died, the CDC found.

“People should be aware that there are risks to children under one year of age that are quite severe, particularly during power surges, and they may want to take extra precautions to reduce exposure,” said Julia Raifman, assistant professor of health law, policy and management at Boston University. School of Public Health, which did not participate in the research.

More than 1,000 children under the age of 18 have died from Covid since the start of the pandemic, including 350 children under the age of 5. But experts also worry about long-term effects, as well as multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a rare but serious condition.

The CDC study found that most children and babies hospitalized — about two-thirds — were healthy and had no underlying medical conditions, as has been the case throughout the pandemic. .

No Covid vaccines are currently licensed in the United States for children under 5, and the regulatory process has been fraught with pitfalls and setbacks. Public health experts strongly recommend anyone who regularly comes into contact with young children to get vaccinated.

“To help protect children too young to be vaccinated, everyone aged five and over, including pregnant women, family members and caregivers, should keep up to date with Covid-19 vaccines,” he said. said Dr. Kristin J. Marks, the study’s first author and an officer with the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, said in an email.

The study, published March 15, looked at childhood hospitalizations in counties in 14 states whose catchment areas represent about 10% of the US population.

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