The Omicron variant led to higher COVID hospitalizations among children ages 4 and younger in the U.S. — at a rate that was five times higher than during the peak of the Delta variant, according to a new study released by the CDC.
Infants under 6 months had the highest rates of hospitalization, the data showed. Importantly, the CDC noted, this age group isn't yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.
"Important strategies to prevent COVID-19 among infants and young children include vaccination of currently eligible populations such as pregnant women, family members, and caregivers of infants and young children," the research team wrote.
The CDC team analyzed trends in coronavirus hospitalizations among young children who had laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 during hospitalization or in the 14 days before admission. The report is based on data from 99 counties in 14 states.
During the Omicron surge from December 2021 to February 2022, the COVID-19 hospitalization rate peaked at 14.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 children younger than 4 in early January 2022. In comparison, the rate peaked at 2.9 hospitalizations per 100,000 children in September 2021 during the Delta variant surge.
What's more, monthly intensive care unit admission rates were about 3.5 times higher for young children during the Omicron peak, the data showed. In January, there were 10.6 ICU admissions per 100,000 children younger than 4, compared with 3 admissions per 100,000 children in September.
Among the children hospitalized during the Omicron surge, 63% had no medical conditions that increased their risk for severe COVID-19, the CDC researchers wrote.
About 44% of those hospitalized were 6 months old or younger, they said. Hospitalization rates among infants under 6 months were about six times higher during the Omicron peak than during the Delta peak.
Throughout the pandemic, even before the Delta variant, infants under 6 months have been hospitalized at higher rates than other children under age 4, the researchers wrote. Previous CDC research suggests that infants can receive protection through antibodies that their mothers have through vaccination, they said.
"The proportion of hospitalized infants and children with severe illness during all variant periods of predominance, coupled with the potential for longer-term [complications such as] multisystem inflammatory syndrome, highlight the importance of preventing COVID-19 among infants and children," the researchers wrote.
CDC: "Hospitalization of Infants and Children Aged 0-4 Years with Laboratory-Confirmed COVID-19 — COVID-NET, 14 states, March 2020-February 2022."
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Cite this: Omicron Increased COVID Hospitalizations Among Young Children: CDC - Medscape - Mar 16, 2022.