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CDC: Rate of young children hospitalized for COVID-19 at omicron peak was 5 times that of delta peak

Federal health officials say the best prevention against COVID-19 infection among infants, who cannot be vaccinated, is for pregnant women and new mothers to become vaccinated.

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A new CDC report says that the omicron variant caused 5 times the rate of hospitalizations as the delta variant did for young children.
Mark Boster / TNS
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ROCHESTER, Minn. — During the omicron peak, infants and young children were hospitalized at 5 times the rate of the 2021 delta variant peak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week.

At the height of omicron case counts on Jan. 8, 2022, there were 14.5 COVID-19 hospitalizations of children aged 4 or younger per 100,000, the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report noted on Tuesday, March 15.

By comparison, at the delta peak on Sept.11, 2021, there were just 2.9 COVID-19 hospitalizations of children aged 4 or younger per 100,000.

Of those affected by the omicron surge in child hospitalizations, the report noted that 63% had no underlying medical conditions.

The study also reported that ICU rates for young children were 3.5 times higher during the omicron peak than at the height of the delta variant. The proportion of those admitted to the ICU during omicron, however, was smaller than during delta.

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The news of heightened rates of child hospitalization under omicron with a smaller proportion of ICU cases is in concordance with widespread messaging in late 2021 that the omicron variant was thought to be more transmissible, but less severe.

"Infants aged (less than) 6 months had the highest rates of hospitalization," among children age 0-4 who were hospitalized during omicron, the CDC report added, noting that infants made up 44% of those hospitalized.

Health officials said the best strategies to prevent COVID-19 among infants and young children included "vaccination of currently eligible populations such as pregnant women, family members, and caregivers of infants and young children."

"Although infants aged (less than) 6 months are not currently eligible for vaccination," the authors wrote, "evidence suggests that this age group can receive protection through passive transplacental transfer of maternal antibodies acquired through vaccination."

CDC also recommends that "women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to become pregnant, or might become pregnant get vaccinated and stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccination."

CDC authors said that future studies are needed to understand the possible long-term consequences of COVID-19 infection among infants.

Paul John Scott is the health correspondent for NewsMD and the Forum News Service. He is a novelist and was an award winning magazine journalist for 15 years prior to joining the FNS in 2019.
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