US Teens 16 to 17 Have the Highest COVID Infection Rate

Ralph Ellis

August 27, 2021

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

Health experts have noted a trend for months: A growing number of children are becoming infected with COVID-19 as the Delta variant spreads across the United States.

Now older teenagers 16 and 17 years old have the highest COVID infection rate among all age groups — adult or children — in the nation, CNN reported.

As of Saturday, children 16-17 accounted for 160.3 COVID weekly cases per 100,000 people, CNN said, citing data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since the pandemic began, about 800,000 teens 16-17 have been infected, about 2.6% of all cases in the nation, CNN said. The age group accounts for 2.5% of the population in the nation.

Why Is This Happening?

Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told CNN that it may be because teens are the least likely to be vaccinated among people eligible for the COVID vaccine. 

"The simple answer is — you have a virus that's highly infectious. It's going to spread to the people who are most vulnerable, and that's going to be the people who are least likely to be vaccinated," Benjamin said.

Older people in vulnerable categories have had the vaccine available since December. The Pfizer vaccine can be given to people 16 and up, whereas the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines can be given to people 18 and up. 

About half of 16-to-17-year-olds have gotten at least one dose of vaccine, Sean O'Leary, MD, a professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at the University of Colorado's School of Medicine, told CNN.

Adolescents 12-15 years old had a COVID weekly infection rate of 152.7 per 100,000, CNN said, citing the CDC data. Children 5-11 had a weekly rate of 137 and children younger than 5 had a rate of 79.4.

In the previous month, people 18-29 years old had the highest weekly infection rate. The rate for people in that age group was most recently 151.9 per 100,000, CNN said.

The rate for people 30-39 years old was 152.9, people 40-49 years old was 129.6, people 50-64 years old was 95.9, people 65-74 years old was 71.2, and people 75 and older was 63.5.


CNN. "Among children, older teens are seeing the highest Covid-19 case rates"

CDC. "COVID-19 Weekly Cases and Deaths per 100,000 Population by Age, Race/Ethnicity, and Sex"


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