MISE & Agrave; DAY
Hospitalizations of children sick with COVID-19 in the United States have reached a high since the start of the pandemic, as the country faces an impressive outbreak of cases due to the Omicron variant .
Experts warn about the importance of vaccinating children, and firstly point to the very high contagiousness of this variant as responsible for the increase in pediatric hospitalizations.
The finding: record increase hospitalizations
In one week, at the very end of December, 378 new hospitalizations were recorded on average in the country among those under 18, an increase of 66% compared to the week before, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).
This is a record, surpassing the previous peak seen in September during the wave linked to Delta. The only other age group for which hospitalizations have reached a new record is 18-29.
The proportion of severe cases among minors remains much lower than for other age groups, however. 'age.
Regarding the number of cases, around 200,000 children were reported sick with COVID-19 the week ending December 23, according to figures from the American Academy of Pediatrics a 50% increase over the number of weekly cases recorded in beginning of the month.
“We are seeing record numbers of cases of children diagnosed positive for COVID-19 during this wave of Omicron”, confirmed to AFP Jim Versalovic, of the hospital for children from Texas to Houston, the largest in the country. Some 50 children are currently hospitalized there, a number having more than quadrupled since last week, he said.
Also in New York City, health officials this week said they are monitoring “closely an upward trend in pediatric hospital admissions.”
The reasons: more cases and less vaccinated children
The explanation is, at least in part, mechanically linked to the general surge of the epidemic in the country.
“More children are infected with this highly transmissible virus, and with it, there will naturally be more hospitalizations of children,” said Wednesday during a press briefing Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House adviser on the health crisis.
Mr. Fauci also warned that children in hospital “with” COVID-19 should be differentiated from those “because” of COVID-19. In other words, especially in winter, some may go to hospital because of other circulating viruses, and be diagnosed positive for Covid-19 in passing.
Another important factor is the much lower vaccination rates among younger people. At the end of December, less than 15% of 5-11 year olds and just over 50% of 12-17 year olds were fully vaccinated.
However, vaccines are very effective in protecting severe cases of the disease .
“Our hospitalized adolescents are almost exclusively unvaccinated,” said Jim Versalovic. The same applies to children aged 5 to 11, who have only been eligible since the beginning of November, ie only two months. Children under 5 are not eligible at all for the moment.
Is Omicron more serious than Delta in children?
As with the Delta variant wave, the rise in pediatric hospitalizations has raised fears that a transformation of the virus may lead to it. enabled them to trigger more severe cases of the disease than previous variants.
But “from what we can see today, Omicron is not causing more severe infections,” said Jim Versalovic, going even further: “Looks like we are dealing with a greater proportion of moderate cases. “.
This is currently the dominant hypothesis for adults as well, but more hindsight will be needed to state it with certainty.
” The final conclusion on the level of (Omicron's) severity in children remains to be determined, “said Anthony Fauci.
Additionally,” although a small percentage of children develop a severe case, a small percentage of a large number gives a large number, “pediatrician Henry Bernstein told AFP. And this is “a real concern”, he added.
Moderate cases of the disease can also lead to cases of long Covid, the consequences of which are still poorly understood, or in severe cases of pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), which does not start until several weeks after infection.
It will therefore be necessary to wait at least in January to see if Omicron, like Delta, also causes these long-term effects, and in what proportion.