The rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations among teens highlights the importance of vaccination, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
“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,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement on Friday.
In its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the CDC showed that hospitalization rates among adolescents aged 12 to 17 peaked at 2.1 per 100,000 in early January, declined to 0.6 in mid-March, and rose to 1.3 in April.
Among 204 adolescents who were likely hospitalized for COVID-19 between January 1 and March 31, nearly one third were admitted to an intensive care unit while five percent required invasive mechanical ventilation, the agency said.
While COVID-19–associated hospitalizations occur more often in adults, the severe disease occurs in all groups, the researchers said.
The latest study also serves as a reminder that even children can suffer from the virus, Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in a CNN report Friday.
“It tells you children can still suffer and be hospitalized by this virus,” Offit said.
“We had this notion, initially, that this was just a disease of older people. It’s not true. This virus can also hurt children,” he added.
The researchers said the rise in hospitalization rates among teens might also be related partly to the spreading of the more infectious variants of the coronavirus, large numbers of children returning to school, as well as changes in prevention behaviors such as physical distancing and mask-wearing.