A: In a recent study released by the CDC, hospitalization rates for adolescents aged 12-17 were highest in early January 2021, decreased in March, and then increased a little in April.
The good news: this is a point in time and looks like rates are going back down. The bad news: even though severe illness in teens is rare, it is possible. Vaccination is the best way to protect kids.
You may be seeing a bunch of headlines about a recent US @CDC report looking at hospitalization among adolescents aged 12-17 (link below!). Hospitalizations were identified using the Coronavirus Disease 2019-Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network (COVID-NET). This network covers 99 counties across 14 states (about 10% of the US population). This is a sample only and does not account for every adolescent hospitalization due to COVID-19.
Between January 1 to March 31, 2021, 204 adolescents were identified as being hospitalized primarily for COVID-19. Of these 204, 31.4% were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and 4.9% required invasive mechanical ventilation (breathing machines). No one died (thank goodness). A little over 70% had one or more preexisting medical problems (like obesity, chronic lung disease, and disorders of the brain and nervous system).
Between March 1, 2020 and April 24, 2021, weekly hospitalization rates for adolescents was highest in January, declined in March, and then increased again in April (but never got back as high as January rates). Fortunately, cases dropped again in May and June (check out the link to AAP data report).
What are the big takeaways from this report?
➡️Though rare, teens can get sick (even really sick) from COVID-19. This is a LOT less like to happen to kids than adults, but is still possible.
➡️The study isn’t perfect. The numbers of cases in the report are low and may be either overestimated or underestimated. The cases could be overestimated because kids might have been hospitalized for something else but met the case definition (had symptoms of COVID-19 and tested positive). These kids would be included and inflate the numbers. Case rates could be underestimated because to have a positive COVID-19 test requires that someone actually do the testing. If the clinician didn’t test for it, or if the test was performed before the adolescent was hospitalized, the study would miss those kiddos and the number would be falsely low.
➡️One third of hospitalized adolescents needing the ICU is scary. Even though total number is low, kids don’t typically need to be hospitalized for most things, let alone admitted to intensive care. This shows that while most teens who get infected will do just fine, some won’t.
➡️About 30% of the teens who got hospitalized didn’t have any medical problems before they got sick. This means that even healthy kids have some risk of getting really sick. Kids with medical problems are at higher risk of having severe illness from COVID-19.
➡️Case rates for teens went up when case rates for adults went up. No surprise there. To keep our teens safe, we need to keep whole communities safe and keep the number of cases low for everyone.
The best thing we can do to protect our kids is vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines are authorized in the US for people 12 and up. Vaccines are safe and effective for adolescents and adults alike. Don’t forget: if your teen is not yet vaccinated, they still need to follow all the safety measures like wearing a mask and physically distancing.
Stay safe out there.
Those Nerdy Girls