CDC Director Cites Rise in Hospitalizations in Urging Teen Vaccinations

Ralph Ellis

June 07, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The CDC director is urging parents to vaccinate their teenagers against COVID-19, citing a study that shows increasing hospitalizations rates for adolescents.

"I am deeply concerned by the numbers of hospitalized adolescents and saddened to see the number of adolescents who required treatment in intensive care units or mechanical ventilation," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said in a statement.

While urging teenagers to wear masks and take precautions around others, she asked "parents, relatives and close friends to join me and talk with teens about the importance of these prevention strategies and to encourage them to get vaccinated."

Walensky referred to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that showed adolescent hospitalizations peaked at 2.1 per 100,000 in early January 2021, then dropped to 0.6 per 100,000 in mid-March.

Alarmingly, hospitalizations rose to 1.3 per 100,000 in April, and a number of teens required serious interventions.

"Among hospitalized adolescents, nearly one third required intensive care unit admission, and 5% required invasive mechanical ventilation," the report said. No deaths occurred.

The study looked at 376 adolescents aged 12 to 17 who were hospitalized and tested positive for coronavirus. Of that group, 204 were hospitalized for COVID-19 and the other 172 were hospitalized for reasons not directly related to COVID-19.

Of the 204 hospitalized for COVID-19, 70.6% had an underlying medical condition such as obesity or chronic lung disease.

The study noted that children and teenagers have lower hospitalization rates and generally show less severe symptoms than older people.

Possible causes for the rise in adolescent COVID hospitalizations include the arrival of variants, the growing number of children returning to in-person education, and the changes in mask-wearing and other safety precautions, the study said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said that as of May 27, 4 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with about 34,500 new child cases reported for the week ending May 27.

The AAP said children have represented 14.1% of total cases since the pandemic began, but for the week ending May 27, children represented 24.3% of new reported weekly COVID-19 cases.

On May 10, the FDA granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to be given to children 12-to-15 years old. Previously, the FDA had authorized the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 and up, whereas the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for people age 18 and up.

"Vaccination is our way out of this pandemic," Walensky said in her statement. "I continue to see promising signs in CDC data that we are nearing the end of this pandemic in this country; however, we all have to do our part and get vaccinated to cross the finish line."


CDC: "Statement from CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH." "Hospitalization of Adolescents Aged 12–17 Years with Laboratory-Confirmed COVID-19 — COVID-NET, 14 States, March 1, 2020–April 24, 2021."

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Children and COVID-19: State-Level Data Report."

FDA: "Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for Emergency Use in Adolescents in Another Important Action in Fight Against Pandemic."