Washington | The delta variant does not cause more severe cases of COVID-19 in children and teens than the other variants, according to the first data released Friday by US health officials.
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Concerns about the consequences of variable delta in younger children have been growing for several weeks in the United States, in the face of a growing number of children in hospitals.
The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the country’s leading federal public health agency, studied data from patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across 99 counties in 14 states, covering about 10% of the American population.
In particular, the agency compared the period from early March to mid-June with the period from mid-June to late July, when the delta variant became dominant in the United States.
Between these two periods, the rate of hospitalization among children and adolescents aged 0 to 17 years increased fivefold.
But the “proportion of children and adolescents hospitalized with serious illness,” for example with admission to intensive care, “was similar before and during the period when delta was dominant.”
In detail, of the 3,116 children and adolescents who were hospitalized within the three and a half months prior to Delta, about 26% were admitted to intensive care, 6% were put on a ventilator, and less than 1% died. After Delta, of the 164 hospitalizations recorded in a month and a half, about 23% were admitted to intensive care, 10% were on a ventilator, and less than 2% died.
Thus the differences between the two periods are not statistically significant.
However, the CDC notes that the number of children with severe cases of the disease was small between mid-June and the end of July, limiting the significance of the comparisons made. They stress that the data will need to continue to be closely monitored in the future.
This work also shows that vaccines still protect adolescents from delta: hospitalization rates were about ten times higher for vaccinated adolescents than for those not vaccinated during the delta control period.
In the United States, teens can receive Pfizer’s vaccine injections starting at age 12.
In addition, a second study published Friday showed that vaccinating adults tends to protect children from contamination.
It examined emergency room visits as well as the number of hospitalizations nationwide in August.
In states with the lowest overall population immunization coverage, the number of emergency room visits by children and adolescents was three times higher than in states with low immunity. And the number of hospitalizations, nearly 4 times.
“More children are getting COVID-19 because the disease is spreading more,” Rochelle Wallinsky, director of the CDC, said Thursday, referring to these two studies.
According to her, they demonstrate on the one hand that “vaccination is effective”, and on the other hand, “there was no increase in the severity of the disease in children.”
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