Pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations hit pandemic high

January 07, 2022

2 min read


Press Conference

Disclosures: Walensky reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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Pediatric hospitalizations due to COVID-19 reached a peak in recent weeks, according to CDC data.

During the week ending Jan. 1, the rate of COVID-19-associated hospitalizations for children aged 4 years or younger was 4.3 per 100,000 — up from 2.5 per 100,000 for the week ending Dec. 18, the data showed.

Pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations are at an all-time high. Source: Adobe Stock

It marked the highest level of hospitalizations in this age group in the 2 years of the pandemic, CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, noted Friday during a teleconference with the media. The rise coincides with a surge in cases nationwide due to the omicron variant.

The rate of hospitalization in the 0 to 4 years age group is higher than the rate for older children aged 5 to 17 years (1.1 per 100,000).

Rochelle Walensky

“Sadly, we are seeing the rate of hospitalizations increasing for children 0 to 4 — children who are not yet currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccination,” Walensky said. “We are still learning more about the severity of omicron on children and whether these increases we are seeing in hospitalization reflect a greater burden of disease in the community, or the lower rates of vaccination for these children under age 18.”

Over 50% of children aged 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated, but only 16% of children aged 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated, Walensky said.

Also Friday, a new report published in MMWR estimated that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is 91% effective (95% CI = 78%–97%) against multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, the severe illness that has been linked to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

According to the report, which included data from 24 pediatric hospitals, all of the critically ill patients with MIS-C who required life support were unvaccinated.

Last week, the FDA — citing omicron — authorized boosters of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 years, a move supported by the CDC this week. Children aged 12 to 17 are now eligible for boosters of the vaccine.

“I strongly encourage parents to get their children vaccinated, and if they are 12 or older, get boosted,” Walensky said. “A review of over 26 million vaccine doses in this age group was publicly reviewed by our advisory committee this week and demonstrated the overwhelming safety of COVID-19 vaccination. Please, for our youngest children, those who are not yet eligible for vaccinations, it’s critically important that we surround them with people who are vaccinated to provide them protection.”


CDC. COVID-NET: Rates of COVID-19-associated hospitalization. Accessed January 7, 2022.

Zambrano LD, et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2022; doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7102e1.



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