CDC: Hospitalization rate among 0-4-year-olds rising

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COVID-19 hospitalization rates among children younger than 4 are at their highest yet, according to the CDC. 

"Sadly, we are seeing the rates of hospitalizations increasing for children 0 to 4, who are not yet currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccination," CDC director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said during a Jan. 7 call with reporters. "It's critically important that we surround them with people who are vaccinated to provide protection." 

For the week ending Jan. 1, the hospitalization rate among children under 4 was 4.3 per 100,000, and 1.1 per 100,000 for those aged 5 to 17. For context, Dr. Walensky said the rate among those older than 65 was 14.7 per 100,000.

"This is the highest number of pediatric hospitalizations we've seen throughout this pandemic," Dr. Walensky said. 

Data on pediatric hospitalizations include both children who were admitted because of COVID-19 and those with incidental COVID-19 cases, who were admitted for other ailments and tested positive during routine screening. "Both of those things are happening at the same time," she said, though did not offer estimates on the proportion of hospitalizations that are primarily because of COVID-19 versus incidental. Health officials have not yet seen a signal that there is increased disease severity among children, Dr. Walensky added. Hospitals have reported seeing more patients of all ages with incidental COVID-19 cases.

Three more notes: 

1. CDC data shows the seven-day average for new hospital admissions among patients 17 and younger with a confirmed infection reached a peak of 766 between Dec. 29 and Jan. 4, up from an average of 383 the week prior. 

2. The increase in daily hospital admissions comes as infections among children are up 64 percent, according to the latest report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association. More than 325,000 cases were reported among children for the week ending Dec. 30, a 64 percent jump from the 199,000 new child cases from the week prior.

3. At least nine states — Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. — have recently reported record pediatric hospitalizations. Physicians told NBC News the "vast majority" of those patients are unvaccinated, either because they are too young to be eligible for the vaccine or their parents declined to get them vaccinated.

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