Cases of COVID-19 in children have increased 30-fold since late June and are now at record highs, with nearly 500,000 new child cases reported in the past two weeks. latest data Released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In Pediatric Affairs”increased rapidly,” AAP said in a statement.
The increase coincides with a dramatic jump in overall COVID-19 transmission driven by the hypertransmissible delta variant. But with more adults getting vaccinated, children are hitting this wave harder than ever, and they make up a bigger and bigger share of cases.
At this point, the US has recorded 5.3 million cumulative cases in children, which accounts for 15.5 percent of the total cases in the pandemic. This percentage has steadily increased during the current boom, from 14.2 per cent at the end of June.
By the end of June, there was a sharp decline in the cases of children and during the week ending June 24, there was a decrease in the cases of children, with children accounting for about 10 percent of the total cases. Amid the delta increase, that weekly percentage increased. Children made up 29 percent of the cases in the week ending September 9. For context, children (under the age of 18) only make up 22.2 percent of the US population.
With the increasing share of cases, raw totals in children are now at their highest level in the pandemic. In the week ending September 9, the US counted 243,373 pediatric patients (from 49 states, plus New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam). That weekly tally is second only to last week, which ended on September 2, with states reporting 251,781 pediatric cases.
Before the Delta surge, the highest weekly tally was set in the week ending January 14, with 211,466 cases among children. From there, the cases fell to 8,447 in the week ending June 24. Current weekly cases are more than 30 times that point.
Nearly half of the country’s pediatric cases in the past two weeks have been reported in southern states, where many areas have had low vaccinations and high transmission.
Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination. However, data continues to show that vaccinating adults around older children and younger children can protect them from infection. States with higher immunization coverage overall have seen fewer cases involving children, emergency visits, and hospitalizations during the current boom.
US officials expect the vaccines to be available to children ages 5 to 11 between the end of October and the end of the year. Vaccines will be given for children from 6 months to 5 years.
One bright spot in the current figures is that the number of children hospitalized and deaths from COVID-19 is relatively low. Among the 24 states with pediatric hospitalizations, pediatric hospitalizations accounted for 1.6 percent to 4 percent of total COVID hospitalizations during the entire pandemic. And according to mortality data from 45 states, children accounted for a 0.2% to 0.27 percent increase in all COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic. Seven states have not reported child deaths during the pandemic.
“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon in children,” the AAP noted. “However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on the long-term effects of the pandemic on children, including the extent to which the virus can harm the long-term physical health of infected children as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”