Why are US Covid deaths rising so fast for children?

Children still at low risk of death overall

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Wednesday 16 March 2022 21:39
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Ron DeSantis tells high school children to take masks off

Covid infections, hospitalisations, and deaths are surging among children in the US, though they still face less risk of severe consequences than any other age cohort, according to recent data.

As many as one-third of the total Covid deaths among US children occurred in the last two months, and as many as 10 per cent of those deaths, 188 fatalities, occurred in the last week, according to an analysis of CDC data from reporter Melody Schreiber, which first appeared in The Guardian.

“It’s no longer fair even to insinuate that Covid doesn’t affect children, that Covid deaths are only in unhealthy children or kids with risk factors. That’s just not true, by the data,” Jason Kane, a paediatric intensivist and associate professor of paediatrics at the University of Chicago Comer children’s hospital, told the paper.

What’s more, in the US, children make up about 5 per cent of all Covid hospitalisations, up as many as four times from previous waves of the coronavirus, Nature reports.

A multitude of factors could be driving the surge, according to experts, from schools and governments around the country relaxing mask mandates, to the low vaccination rate among children, to the unavailability of many Covid treatments for children unless they are at high-risk, to differences in how Omicron affects young people.

During the pandemic, at least 1,339 individuals 17 and under have died, according to CDC data, and that’s likely an undercount as data reporting catches up with the situation on the ground. They represent a small proportion of the nearly 1 million Americans total who have died from Covid.

Children have made up about 17.5 per cent of the more than 79 million Covid cases recorded in the US.

Despite the worrying trends, children still remain the lowest-risk group for severe Covid impacts, and preliminary data from the UK shows that even though more children ended up in the hospital during the Omicron wave, they didn’t require as many medical interventions like ventilators or oxygen tanks, suggesting milder cases.

Experts are advocating a renewed push for vaccinations, as well as more public health spending, to avoid any worsening of this development.

Currently, less than one-third of children aged 5 to 11 are vaccinated, well below the extensive vaccination rates for seniors aged 65 to 74, over 91 per cent of whom have gotten the full series of jabs, according to CDC data.

The White House has called on Congress to pass an additional $22.5m Covid spending, otherwise the US might run out of funds to spend on things like antibody treatments, booster shots, antiviral drugs, and improvements to the testing infrastructure.

Last week, Democrats in Congress removed $15bn from a spending bill in the face of Republican opposition.

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