A grim trend has emerged across the US as the country battles the highly transmissible Delta Covid-19 variant and 100,000 new daily infections.
Since the virus landed on American shores early last year, children under 15 have recorded the lowest infection rates, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows.
It has also been widely reported throughout the pandemic that kids were less likely to fall severely ill if they do catch Covid.
But now, school-age children have infection rates higher than adults aged 50 and older, a trend health experts attribute to the Delta variant being more likely to infect children than the original Alpha strain.
US child hospitalisations at highest level
US child hospitalisations are at their highest point after more than 1,450 were admitted in the past week, the CDC reports.
From August 1 to August 7, an average of 203 people aged between 0 and 17 were hospitalised each day.
It is a 21.4 per cent jump from the week earlier.
Children are making up 20 per cent of all new Covid-19 cases, prompting US physicians and health experts to push for the “dominant mantra of kids don’t get Covid” to be retired.
Heather Haq, a paediatric hospitalist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, took to Twitter this week to address the issue.
“I’ll be there to take care of these children as they get admitted to the hospital,” she said.
“But let’s work together to protect our kids by practising proven risk reduction measures: vaccination for anyone 12+ who is eligible and universal masking in schools.”
She said the US has “reached a grim juncture”.
“More children are hospitalised with Covid than at any other time point in the pandemic, and this number will continue to grow as the Delta variant spreads.
“Urgent action is required to keep children safe.”
As of July 7, 8.5 million US children under 18 have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.
However, kids under age 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination, making up 14.5 per cent of the population.
Calls for kids under 12 to be vaccinated
Covid-19 vaccinations should be required for teachers to protect students who are too young to be inoculated, the head of the nation's second-largest teachers' union said on Sunday, shifting course to back mandated shots as more children fall ill.
"The circumstances have changed," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told NBC News.
"It weighs really heavily on me that kids under 12 can't get vaccinated."
"I felt the need ... to stand up and say this as a matter of personal conscience," she said.
We have reached a grim juncture: more US #children are hospitalized with #COVID than at any other time point in the pandemic, and this number will continue to grow as the Delta variant spreads. Urgent action is required to keep children safe. Data source: https://t.co/N1FWwpOQtJ pic.twitter.com/wkfd9ClYNv
— Heather #Vaccinated Haq, MD, MHS, FAAP (@heather_haq) August 9, 2021
Dr Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University, told CNN staff at children’s hospitals are “overwhelmed”.
"Our paediatricians, the nursing, the staff are exhausted, and the children are suffering. And it is absolutely devastating ... our children are very much affected. We've never seen numbers like this before," she said.
Florida has the second highest rate of new cases behind Louisiana.
"We have not seen kids pile into paediatric ICUs across the south like we're seeing right now," Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, also told the publication.
with AP and Reuters
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