Unvaccinated children ages 5 to 11 were hospitalized with Covid at twice the rate of vaccinated children during the winter surge of the Omicron variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.
The study was the latest to show that vaccines help keep children out of hospital with Covid, even though the shots lose some of their potency in stopping infections of the Omicron variant.
But the CDC report, based on data from hospitals serving about 10 percent of the US population in 14 states, also offered some of the strongest evidence to date that racial disparities in childhood vaccination could be leaving black children more exposed to serious illnesses from covid.
Black children in the age group 5 to 11 years accounted for about a third of unvaccinated children in the study, the largest of any racial group, and made up about a third of overall Covid-related hospitalizations within the age group. age.
2020 estimates based on census data suggest that black children made up about 14 percent of US residents ages 5 to 11. But it’s not clear whether the areas covered by the CDC study are representative of the country’s population, making it difficult to accurately measure disparities.
“Increasing vaccination coverage among children, particularly among racial and ethnic minority groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19, is critical to preventing hospitalization and serious outcomes associated with COVID-19,” the study said. the CDC.
The agency has not reported national data on the race or ethnicity of vaccinated children, making it difficult for researchers to examine gaps in protection.
Seven states and Washington, DC, report racial data for vaccinated children ages 5 to 11 years. Black children were vaccinated at lower rates than white children in most but not all of those states, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation this month. Asian children tended to have the highest vaccination rates, the analysis found, and Hispanic children were inoculated at lower or similar rates than white children.
Among all US residents, black people remain less likely to be vaccinated than white people, although the gap has narrowed over the course of the vaccination campaign.
Children are protected in much smaller numbers: only about a third of children ages 5 to 11 have at least one dose of the vaccine, the lowest rate of any age group. And the pace of vaccination in that age group has slowed considerably in recent weeks.
The CDC study covered the period from mid-December to the end of February, during which some 400 children were hospitalized with Covid at the selected hospitals that participated in the study. Nearly 90 percent of them were unvaccinated. The report said about a third of the children had no underlying medical conditions and a fifth were admitted to an intensive care unit.
Among children who tested positive for the virus before or during their hospitalization, three-quarters of them were admitted primarily for Covid, rather than other illnesses, the CDC said.
The agency said that Omicron appeared to be causing less severe disease in children than the Delta variant, just as it did in adults, but that Omicron was so contagious and infected so many children that they were hospitalized at higher rates during the Omicron surge. .
Infected children are much less likely to become seriously ill than adults. But because younger children (under 5 years of age) do not yet qualify for vaccination and older children are vaccinated at much lower rates, children in general are somewhat less protected against the virus than adults.