As the number of new Covid-19 cases surges across the US, doctors are sounding the alarm about the record-breaking pediatric hospitalizations being fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron and Delta variants.
The nation's largest pediatric hospital, Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, has reported a four-fold increase in Covid-19 hospitalizations within the last two weeks –– breaking pandemic records. Many of the young patients coming in are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
"We have staggering numbers here from this Omicron surge already," Dr. Jim Versalovic, chief pathologist at Texas Children's, told the outlet on Monday (January 3). "We shattered records that were established during the Delta surge in August."
During one 24-hour period last week, more than 700 children were at the hospital with Covid-19, he said. Sequencing data shows that 90% of the cases were caused by the Omicron variant.
"We are seeing more Covid now than we have seen in previous waves," Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a NYC-based pediatrician and professor said, "and it's worrisome that the worst of the winter here has not passed, and we are bracing for what is still to come."
Vaccination and Children
Doctors are warning that while the Omicron variant seems to attach to the upper airways, treatment for children isn't the same as adults.
"We cannot treat the airways of children like they are the airways of adults," Bracho-Sanchez said. "It's just not the way it works. And for us pediatricians, we know that respiratory viruses can lead to .... coup and bronchiolitis, that inflammation of the upper airways that does get children into trouble."
To combat the hospitalization rates, experts are calling to get eligible children vaccinated. On Monday (January 3), the FDA approved the Pfizer booster for children aged 12 to 15. The FDA also shortened the booster eligibility period from six months from the second shot to five months for everyone 12 years and over.
So far, the CDC has reported that five million kids 12-15 have received the vaccine and are now eligible for the booster.
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