October 15, 2021 by John Fernandez
COVID-19 Roundup: Children Make Up 27% of New Weekly U.S. Cases; Vast Majority of Adults had Antibodies Before Delta; and More
Pediatricians: Children Currently Represent Slightly More Than a Quarter of New COVID Weekly Cases
Children make up slightly more than a quarter of the country’s weekly COVID-19 cases, according to data released this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association.
“About 252,000 cases (27 percent of all cases) were added the past week (Aug. 26-Sept. 2), the largest number of child cases in a week since the pandemic began,” states the AAP. “After declining in early summer, child cases have increased exponentially, with over 750,000 cases added between August 5 and September 2.”
At this time, severe illness due to COVID-19 remains uncommon among children. However, the AAP said “there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”
The AAP recommends that all children aged 12 years and older receive the COVID-19 vaccines, which are currently approved for children aged 12 to 17. U.S. health officials anticipate that COVID vaccines for kids under 12 will be authorized before year’s end.
The data from the AAP and Children’s Hospital Association followed a separate report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found more children were hospitalized for COVID-19 over the summer as the highly contagious Delta variant fueled a nationwide surge in infections. The CDC said the hospitalization rate was 10 times as high in unvaccinated adolescents as in those who were vaccinated, according to new studies from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
From late June to mid-August, U.S. hospitalization rates in the United States for children and teenagers increased nearly five-fold — but remained slightly below January’s peak, one of the CDC studies concluded. found.
Researchers also found that emergency room visits and hospital admissions linked to COVID among children were more than three times as high in states with the lowest vaccination rates, compared with states with highest vaccination rates. The CDC based their findings on data from a national monitoring system — COVID-19 Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network (COVID-NET) — that includes hospitals in most states and Washington, D.C.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, severe illness and death from COVID-19 have remained rare, although children’s hospitals have been filling up during the current surge fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant.
Summarizing the new studies, the CDC states: “The proportions of hospitalized children and adolescents with severe disease were similar before and during the period of Delta predominance.”
Nonetheless, the CDC adds that preventive measures to reduce transmission and severe outcomes in children and adolescents are “critical, including vaccination, universal masking in schools, and masking by persons aged 2 years and older in other indoor public spaces and child care centers.”
Vaccination was highly effective in preventing COVID-related hospitalizations in adolescents during late June to late July 2021, the agency said. Since March 2020, approximately one in four hospitalized children and adolescents with COVID-19 has required intensive care, the studies found.
More Than 80% of U.S. Population Had COVID-19 Antibodies Before Delta Surge, Study Finds
Researchers continue to monitor antibody levels in Americans who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or have recovered from the virus — or in some cases both. The largest study to date has found that more than 83 percent of Americans had COVID-19 antibodies before the beginning of the surge fueled by the Delta, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The findings were based on blood donations in the U.S. between July 2020 and May 2021, and covered 1,443,519 blood specimens. The study found that COVID-19 antibodies increased from 20 percent to 83 percent after vaccination rollouts — which began to the general population in December 2020, according to a shared by the CDC and published in JAMA.
“CDC is learning more about how many people need antibodies before the population can be considered protected,” the agency said.
The CDC concedes that finding of 83 percent with antibodies “may not be representative of the entire U.S. population” despite adjusting demographic differences.
The initial rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines began in mid-December of 2020. About 75 percent of the U.S. population, aged over 18, has received at least one vaccine shot. However, vaccination rates vary from the state to state. And vaccine hesitancy is a factor in more than 90 percent of hospitalizations during the current Delta surge.
Pediatricians: More Important Than Ever for Kids to Get Their Annual Flu Shots
Just as adults and adolescents who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are much less likely to get severely ill, the same applies to children and the flu, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which has released its official recommendation that all healthy children, 6 months and older, be vaccinated for influenza this fall.
“If children do get sick with the flu, those who have been vaccinated are less likely to have severe illness or be hospitalized,” states the AAP’s statement. “In prior years, about 80 percent of children who died of influenza had not been vaccinated, according to research.”
It’s vital that kids get their flu shots “especially now that many children have returned to in-classroom learning,” pediatricians state.
The AAP emphasizes that children with “acute, moderate or severe COVID-19” should not receive influenza vaccine until they have recovered. But children with mild illness may be vaccinated.
Pediatricians recommend that all children age 6 months and older be vaccinated annually with influenza vaccine. AAP states it has “no preference for a specific type of flu vaccine; depending on the child’s age and health.” They may receive either the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV), given by intramuscular injection, or attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), which is a nasal spray, the AAP says.