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Within weeks, the Omicron variant fueled thousands of new Covid hospitalizations among American children, raising new concerns about how the many unvaccinated Americans under the age of 18 will behave in the new wave, Reuters reports.

The average number of daily seven-day hospitalizations for children between December 21 and December 27 rose more than 58% nationally last week to 334, from around 19% for all age groups , based on US data. Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention Pin up. Less than 25% of the 74 million Americans under the age of 18 are vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Omicron cases are expected to increase even faster in the United States as schools reopen next week after winter recess, experts have warned.

Doctors say it is too early to determine whether Omicron causes more serious illness in children than other coronavirus variants, but that its extremely high transmissibility is one of the key factors leading to hospitalizations.

“It’s going to infect more people and it will infect more people. We have seen the numbers increase, we have seen hospitalizations in children increase, ”said Dr. Jennifer Nayak, infectious disease expert and pediatrician at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

What we are finding is that children under the age of five are not vaccinated, so there is still a relatively large population of naive children, so they have no pre-existing immunity to this virus.

Even in New York City, which has some of the highest vaccination rates in the country, only about 40% of 5- to 17-year-olds are fully vaccinated against more than 80% of adults, according to city health data.

There is no licensed vaccine for American children under the age of five.

Hospitalizations in New York City of people aged 18 and under fell from 22 in the week starting December 5 to 109 between December 19 and 23. Children under five accounted for almost half of the total cases.

Hospitalizations for people 18 and under statewide were 184 from December 19 to 23, compared to 70 from December 5 to 11.

Other parts of the country are also experiencing an increase in cases among children. Ohio has seen a 125% increase in hospitalizations among children 17 and under over the past four weeks, according to data from the Ohio Hospital Association.

Florida, New Jersey and Illinois have seen an increase of at least double the average daily seven-day hospitalization of underage coronavirus patients over the past week, according to CDC data.

Young children have much lower vaccination rates than other age groups, with some families reluctant to introduce a new vaccine to their younger members.

Less than 15% of American children aged 5 to 11 have been fully immunized since the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine was cleared for this age group in late October, according to federal data.

Doctors said the most severe symptoms of Covid they are seeing in children hospitalized this month include difficulty breathing, high fever and dehydration.

“They need help breathing, they need help getting oxygen, they need extra hydration. They’re sick enough to end up in the hospital, and it’s scary for doctors, and it’s scary for parents, ”said Rebecca Madan, pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University’s Langone Health Hospital System. from New York.

The increase in the number of cases came as schools were closing for winter break. Before the holidays, more than a thousand classrooms were fully or partially quarantined due to outbreaks, according to data from New York City. The city said it will open schools for around one million children as planned on Jan.3, after the district’s winter recess.

Research has shown that a substantial amount of transmission in children tends to occur outside of schools. But Madan and others expect a further increase in cases among children at holiday gatherings, which could disrupt school attendance.

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