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While Covid-19 hospitalization rates in children are higher than they have been at previous points in the pandemic, that might not be a signal that the Omicron variant is inherently more severe in children, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday. 

“This very well may be the fact that there are just more cases out there and that our children are more vulnerable when we see that they have more cases surrounding them,” she said. 

“We are seeing a rise in hospitalizations, both because they are coming in with Covid but also because they’re screening in for Covid. And so I would say we don’t yet, have not yet, seen a signal that there is any increased severity in this age demographic,” she said.  

Walensky said while hospitalizations are increasing in children, they’re increasing in other populations as well. She presented data from the CDC COVID-NET surveillance system tracking Covid-19-related hospitalizations. According to CDC data, in the week ending Jan. 1, children under 4 had 4.3 Covid-19-associated hospitalizations per 100,000. This number fell to 1.1 in children ages 5 to 17, but both are well under the rate of 14.7 in adults over 65.

“So rates are higher, again, in the pediatric population than we’ve seen previously, but they’re also higher in many of our other populations and many populations that are also vaccinated,” Walensky said. 

The CDC director also said this is the typical time of year for other types of illnesses to land children in the hospital. 

“When we talk to our colleagues in these pediatric hospitals, what we’re hearing is, yes, there’s a lot of pediatric admissions associated with many things and other respiratory viruses. We’re seeing more than … we generally do,” she said. 

Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, close to 82,000 children have been hospitalized with Covid-19, according to most recent data from the CDC.


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