Consistent with demographics of adults, about two thirds of the hospitalized teens were Hispanic or Black.
After peaking in January and then steadily declining in the following months, COVID-19 hospitalization rates among teens nearly doubled from March to April, according to a new report.
Among 205 adolescents hospitalized for COVID-19 between January and March, about 31 percent were admitted to an intensive care unit and 5% required invasive mechanical ventilation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. Still, none of the teens died from the disease in that time.
The hospitalization trend directly contrasts with that of adults aged 65 and older, which has stabilized during the same period largely because of high vaccination rates among older populations.
Consistent with the demographics of hospitalized adults, however, about two thirds of the hospitalized teens were Hispanic or Black; experts say this emphasizes the need to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines among marginalized racial and ethnic communities.
The COVID-19 hospitalization rates among teens also surpassed historical rates of flu-related hospitalization during similar periods.
Researchers speculate the more contagious coronavirus variants may be infecting teens more easily — and more often. They also suggest the return to in-person schooling and other indoor activities, as well as “changes” in physical distancing, mask-wearing and other safety measures may be to blame.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, along with other health experts, says until teens are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, they should continue to wear masks and take precautions when around others who aren’t vaccinated.
“I am deeply concerned by the numbers of hospitalized adolescents and saddened to see the number of adolescents who required treatment in intensive care units or mechanical ventilation. Much of this suffering can be prevented,” Walensky said in a statement released Friday. “I ask parents, relatives and close friends to join me and talk with teens about the importance of these prevention strategies and to encourage them to get vaccinated.”
Teen COVID-19 hospitalization rates peaked in January at 2.1 per 100,000 people, dropped to 0.6 in mid-March and then rose to 1.3 in April, according to the report.
Most of the hospitalized teens from the first few months of the year had at least one medical condition, the most common of which were obesity, chronic lung disease and neurological disorders. However, nearly 30% didn’t have any existing medical conditions, suggesting healthy kids are still at risk for severe disease.
What’s more, the COVID-19 hospitalizations rates in teens from October 2020 to April 2021 were up to three times higher than flu-related hospitalization rates in the same period during the last three influenza seasons, the CDC found.
“Vaccination is our way out of this pandemic,” Walensky said. “I continue to see promising signs in CDC data that we are nearing the end of this pandemic in this country; however, we all have to do our part and get vaccinated to cross the finish line.”
Only the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use for teens between 12 and 15 years old in the U.S. It was previously authorized for people aged 16 and up. There are currently no coronavirus vaccines authorized for emergency use in children 11 years old or younger.
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