Children and COVID: Many Parents See Vaccine as the Greater Risk

Richard Franki

July 26, 2022

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

New COVID-19 cases rose for the second week in a row as cumulative cases among U.S. children passed the 14-million mark, but a recent survey shows that more than half of parents believe that the vaccine is a greater risk to children under age 5 years than the virus.

In a Kaiser Family Foundation survey conducted July 7-17, 53% of parents with children aged 6 months to 5 years said that the vaccine is "a bigger risk to their child's health than getting infected with COVID-19, compared to 44% who say getting infected is the bigger risk," KFF reported July 26.

 

More than 4 out of 10 of respondents (43%) said that they will "definitely not" get their eligible children vaccinated, while only 7% said that their children had already received it and 10% said their children would get it as soon as possible, according to the KFF survey, which had an overall sample size of 1,847 adults, including an oversample of 471 parents of children under age 5.

Vaccine initiation has been slow in the first month since it was approved for the youngest children. Just 2.8% of all eligible children under age 5 had received an initial dose as of July 19, compared with first-month uptake figures of more than 18% for the 5- to 11-year-olds and 27% for those aged 12-15, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The current rates for vaccination in those aged 5 and older look like this: 70.2% of 12- to 17-year-olds have received at least one dose, versus 37.1% of those aged 5-11. Just over 60% of the older children were fully vaccinated as of July 19, as were 30.2% of the 5- to 11-year-olds, the CDC reported on its COVID Data Tracker.

Number of New Cases Hits 2-Month High

Despite the vaccine, SARS-CoV-2 and its various mutations have continued with their summer travels. With 92,000 newly infected children added for the week of July 15-21, there have now been a total of 14,003,497 pediatric cases reported since the start of the pandemic, which works out to 18.6% of cases in all ages, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association said in their weekly COVID-19 report.

The 92,000 new cases represent an increase of almost 22% over the previous week and mark the highest 1-week count since May, when the total passed 100,000 for 2 consecutive weeks. More recently the trend had seemed more stable as weekly cases dropped twice and rose twice as the total hovered around 70,000, based on the data collected by the AAP and CHA from state and territorial health departments.

A different scenario has played out for emergency department visits and hospital admissions, which have risen steadily since the beginning of April. The admission rate for children aged 0-17, which was just 0.13 new patients per 100,000 population on April 11, was up to 0.44 per 100,000 on July 21. By comparison, the highest rate reached last year during the Delta surge was 0.47 per 100,000, based on CDC data.

The 7-day average of emergency dept. visits among the youngest age group, 0-11 years, shows the same general increase as hospital admissions, but the older children have diverged form that path (see graph). For those aged 12-15 and 16-17, hospitalizations started dropping in late May and into mid-June before climbing again, although more slowly than for the youngest group, the CDC data show.

The ED visit rate with diagnosed COVID among those aged 0-11, measured at 6.1% of all visits on July 19, is, in fact, considerably higher than at any time during the Delta surge last year, when it never passed 4.0%, although much lower than peak Omicron (14.1%). That 6.1% was also higher than any other age group on that day, adults included, the CDC said.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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