Almost 199,000 children have been confirmed positive for Covid-19 in the last week with Omicron being the predominant factor in increasing spread of the virus in younger age groups although infections were predominantly mild according to a statement from the American Pediatric Association.
The seven-day-average of Covid hospital admissions for people aged 0-17 was 378 in the week ending December 28, a 66.1% increase on the prior week and the highest ever figure, surpassing the previous peak seen during the Delta wave on September 1, per official data. Doctors speculate that the extreme contagiousness of Omicron, rather than severity, is driving the spread.
The bulk of children admitted hospitals were also unvaccinated, according to Texas' Children's Hospital pathologist and immunologist Dr.James Versalovic who told AFP that he was seeing mostly unvaccinated adolescents. Versalovic added there was also cause for hope that the spike might recede very quickly in the coming weeks, as was seen in southern Africa, urging parents to vaccinate their children.
Vaccinations also remain low in the 5-11 age group with just 15% of children vaccinated compared with 84% of those in the adult age group. This is also due to the fact that children were the last group to get vaccinations approved. Risks associated with vaccines have been shown to be very mild in the younger age groups.
The only other age group where hospitalizations have hit a new peak are 18-29 year olds. The rates of severe illness remain however much lower in absolute terms compared to older age groups. There have been 803 deaths of people aged 0-18 from Covid in the US, out of more than 820,000, since the pandemic began.
Early results from studies published in Hong Kong have also shown that Omicron has a higher replication rate in bronchi but is overall 10 times slower replicating in the lungs when compared to the Delta variant of the coronavirus, a report by AFP said. The transmission of the virus could be accelerated by these factors.