New York State issued an urgent advice to pediatricians on Christmas Eve, urging them to ensure their patients are vaccinated after the number of hospitalizations with COVID among children quadrupled in less than three weeks.
The unusual warning, on Friday night on the eve of a major holiday, comes as the omicron variant of COVID-19 is burning like wildfire through the people of New York City. More than 20,000 people a day are infected and some neighborhoods in lower Manhattan are now among the most contagious places on Earth.
Right now, the daily number of new COVID hospitalizations in New York City alone is growing by more than 30% per day. But the state cited a specific problem in the city with children, with the number of admissions for children 18 and under quadrupling between December 5 and this week, a period of less than three weeks.
Over the same period, the total number of COVID hospitalizations in New York City grew 170%, suggesting that younger children are now getting much sicker.
COVID in children: ‘Remarkable increase’ of cases
“We are warning New Yorkers of this recent marked increase in pediatric COVID-19 admissions so that pediatricians, parents and guardians can take urgent action to protect our youngest New Yorkers,” Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett said in a statement.
About half of those hospital admissions were for children under the age of 5, who are not eligible for vaccination.
But of the rest, none of the admitted children aged 5-11, and only a third of children aged 12-17, had been fully vaccinated in the past week.
However, the state has not broken down exactly how sick those children are, or whether the number of ICU admissions or fatalities has also increased. Since the start of the pandemic, New York has recorded 37 COVID deaths among children, about a third of whom also had another serious illness such as cancer or diabetes when they died.
It is also not yet clear whether the spike in hospitalizations is causing an increase in reports of MIS-C, a pediatric complication of COVID. Since the condition was first diagnosed last year, the state has confirmed just over 600 cases and three deaths.
Statewide, vaccine uptake rates in children were relatively low. As of Friday, only 16% of eligible children aged 5-11 and 64% of eligible children aged 12-17 had been fully vaccinated.