CDC studies: Child COVID-19 infections higher in low-vaccination states

CDC studies: Child COVID-19 infections higher in low-vaccination states
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Hospitalizations and emergency room visits by children with COVID-19 were much higher in states with low vaccination rates, according to two new studies released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to one study, hospitalization rates of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 were 10 times higher in the unvaccinated states compared with those with higher percentages of residents who were fully vaccinated, CDC found.

Weekly coronavirus–associated hospitalization rates rose rapidly during late June to mid-August 2021 among children and adolescents, and by mid-August, the rate among children aged 0–4 years was nearly 10 times the rate seven weeks earlier, CDC said, which coincided with the spread of the delta variant. 

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However, the proportion of young children with severe disease was generally similar compared with those earlier in the pandemic. 

"These studies demonstrated that there was not increased disease severity in children. Instead, more children have COVID-19, because there is more disease in the community," CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyFDA panel endorses COVID-19 booster shots for older Americans, rejects widespread use Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows MORE told reporters during a briefing Thursday. 

Another study looked at national cases, emergency room visits and hospitalizations, and found that in August 2021, the rate of hospitalization for children was nearly four times higher in states with the lowest overall vaccination coverage when compared to states with high overall vaccination coverage. 

During a two-week period, emergency department visits and hospital admissions for children and adolescents with confirmed COVID-19 were highest in states with the lowest vaccination coverage. That number was particularly high in Southern states. In the states with the highest coverage, COVID-19 emergency department visits and the rate of hospital admissions among children and adolescents were lowest.

The study concluded that community vaccination, in coordination with testing strategies and other prevention measures, is critical to protecting pediatric populations from COVID-19 infection and severe disease.

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With more activities resuming, including in-person school attendance and a return of younger children to congregate child care settings, preventive measures to reduce the incidence of severe COVID-19 are critical, CDC said. 

The agency recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff members, students, and visitors in K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.

"What is clear from these data is community-level vaccination coverage protects our children," Walensky said. "We know what we need to do to protect our children: get vaccinated, wear masks, and follow CDC guidance. We must come together to ensure that our children and our future remain safe and healthy during this time."