Child hospitalizations reach record high amid omicron surge: WSJ

Child hospitalizations in the United States and United Kingdom are reaching record highs amid the omicron surge, but it is not yet clear the exact role COVID-19 is playing, according to reporting by The Wall Street Journal.

While England saw a peak of 160 pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations in August for children 5 years and younger, that number reached 576 in the week to Jan. 9, the Journal noted.

Earlier this month, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky said that pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. had reached record levels.

There were 4.3 COVID-19 associated hospitalizations per 100,000 children under the age of 4 for the week ending on Jan. 1, according to data from the CDC. Additionally there were about 1.1 hospitalizations per 100,000 children ages 5 to 17, though both numbers are lower than the 14.7 hospitalization rate for adults over the age of 65 years old. 

The newspaper reported that doctors think that the rise in child hospitalization is not related to a more severe variant but likely the fact that it’s highly infectious. Still, it is not clear whether certain ages’ lack of accessibility for the vaccine plays a role.

It is also not clear how much of a child’s hospitalization can be attributed to COVID-19 or what the underlying cause may be, the Journal noted. Doctors also are still determining how the omicron variant is impacting children.

Health officials and initial research suggest that the omicron variant is less severe than previous variants, and President Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said late last month that for vaccinated people, the omicron variant appeared to be less severe than delta.

“We know now, incontrovertibly, that this is a highly, highly transmissible virus. We know that from the numbers we’re seeing,” Fauci said during a White House briefing, pointing to initial U.S. hospital data and international research, adding “all indications point to a lesser severity of omicron versus delta.”