The Washington Post is doing excellent reporting of the pandemic and providing free access to articles concerning the pandemic. I’ve been disappointed by the sensationalist headlines of the New York Times during the pandemic. They misinform readers about the severity of the variants. In the chart above from this week’s Washington Post, you can see that although cases are at an all-time high in the USA, the number of hospitalizations and deaths are not. I interpret this as vaccines and boosters providing protection and perhaps the Omicron variant is not as severe as previous versions of the coronavirus.
The Washington Post also included another article from CDC in their weekly COVID news summary showing that children should get vaccinated as it does provide the same protection against hospitalization as in adults (see article at the end of this post). I also wonder about how seasonal influenza combines with coronavirus this winter. My takeaway from both these articles is thinking about how schools manage cases in light of a higher number of cases due to Omicron, but a similar rate of hospitalizations and deaths. I see that vaccinated people and young people are much safer in the pandemic than unvaccinated people, older people and those with health risks. Do we need to tighten our protocols? Do we need to go Virtual for a few weeks while the Omicron wave goes through our community? The data from South Africa is showing that the wave is much shorter in duration than previous waves (see chart below).
We don’t fully understand why pediatric hospitalizations are up, CDC director says, but vaccination clearly keeps kids safe
Washington Post, Francis Stead Sellers,
The omicron variant, which is sending U.S. children to hospitals in record numbers, is keeping people guessing — even the scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the agency’s director.“We are still learning more about the severity of omicron in children,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters Friday, noting that the increase in hospitalizations is occurring among all age groups.Rates are higher than before among pediatric populations. As of Jan. 1, the rate in the 4-or-younger age group was 4.3 per 100,000. Among those ages 5 to 17, the rate was 1.1. While concerning, the pediatric numbers are still minimal compared with older people: For those over 65, the rate is 14.7 per 100,000.The new variant is rampaging through the United States during the winter months, when other respiratory diseases, including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, are prevalent. Some children are being affected by the two viruses at the same time, making it hard to assess the severity of omicron. Others, who come to hospitals for elective surgery, test positive for the coronavirus but are completely asymptomatic, further confounding the picture.The increases in child hospitalizations could also stem from there being more opportunities to catch the highly contagious omicron variant or from children’s lower vaccination rates.Despite such uncertainty, the CDC director presented compelling data for the efficacy of vaccination:
- Just 50 percent of children ages 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated and only 6 percent of those ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated.
- The rate of covid-19-associated hospitalizations in unvaccinated adolescents ages 12 to 17 is about 11 times higher than fully vaccinated adolescents of the same age range.
The best way to protect young children who are not yet eligible for vaccines, Walensky said, is to surround them with immunized family members, caregivers and teachers.