By Apoorva Mandavilli
The New York Times
Since the start of the pandemic, very few adolescents have become ill enough with COVID-19 to be hospitalized. But of those who did, about one-third were admitted to intensive care units, and 5% required ventilators, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday.
These findings underscore the importance of vaccinating children against the coronavirus, experts said. “Much of this suffering can be prevented,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said in a statement. “Vaccination is our way out of this pandemic.”
The data also run counter to claims that influenza is more threatening to children than COVID-19, an argument that has been used to reopen schools and to question the value of coronavirus vaccines for children.
The number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 among adolescents in the United States was about three times as high as hospitalizations linked to influenza over three recent flu seasons, the study found.
“There’s a very strong case to be made for preventing a disease that causes hospitalizations and deaths, not to mention contributing to community transmission,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chair of the committee on infectious diseases at the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Children have a much lower likelihood overall of becoming severely ill or dying from COVID-19, compared with adults, but the risks are thought to increase with age. According to the most recent data collected by the academy, nearly 4 million children have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, compared with about 30 million cases among adults.
Still, about 16,500 children have been hospitalized for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 322 have died, making it one of the leading causes of death among children, Maldonado noted.
“It sounds like it’s not a lot of deaths,” especially compared with 600,000 dead in the United States, she said. But “it should still be horrifying that 300 to 600 kids are dying because of something that is preventable.”
Of the 24 million children ages 12 to 17 in the United States, about 6.4 million have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and only 2.3 million are fully vaccinated.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.