The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “has not yet seen” a signal that the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus is causing more severe symptoms in young children, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the agency’s director.
During a Jan. 7 call with reporters, Walensky was asked about the rising number of children under the age of 5 hospitalized amid the spread of the Omicron variant. According to the latest figures released by the CDC, the rate of hospitalizations for children in that age group increased from 2.6 to 4.3 per 100,000 people in the week between Dec. 25 and Jan. 2.
In response, Walensky highlighted the difference between children being admitted to hospitals with the virus and because of the virus, noting that her agency so far has not seen evidence that Omicron causes increased severity in the youngest patients.
“Are they coming into the hospital because of COVID? Are they come in for some other reason? Are they getting routine screening and they’re detected with COVID? Those things are happening at the same time,” Walensky said.
“We are seeing a rise in hospitalizations, both because they’re coming in with COVID and for COVID,” she continued. “I would say we have not yet seen a signal that there is an increased severity in this age demographic.”
Walensky added that more efforts are needed to better understand exactly how the Omicron variant affects children and contributes to pediatric hospitalizations. She nonetheless encouraged parents to vaccinate their children.
“We have not yet seen that signal, but we will be looking for it for sure,” she said. “And I would say the best way to keep those children protected is to vaccinate them as they’re eligible and surround them by siblings and parents who were vaccinated themselves.”
The idea that many children and teenagers admitted to the hospital are actually for other reasons and may just happen to have the CCP virus is nothing new. It also appears to be consistent with the results of a recent CDC study.
In the study published on Dec. 31, researchers took a closer look at young patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19 in July and August 2020, when the Delta variant was the dominant variant of the virus in the United States. They found that most of those who suffered severe COVID-19 symptoms had underlying health conditions, especially obesity.
“Among patients aged 12–17 years, 61.4 percent had obesity,” according to the study, which covered 915 COVID-19 cases in 6 different U.S. hospitals, “60.5 percent of whom had severe obesity.”