Havers, et al. (2021) state that most COVID-19–associated hospitalizations occur in older adults, but severe disease that requires hospitalization occurs in all age groups, including adolescents aged 12–17 years. On May 10, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration expanded the Emergency Use Authorization for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include persons aged 12–15 years, and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended it for this age group on May 12, 2021. Before that time, COVID-19 vaccines had been available only to persons aged ≥16 years.
The researchers emphasize that, "Understanding and describing the epidemiology of COVID-19–associated hospitalizations in adolescents and comparing it with adolescent hospitalizations associated with other vaccine-preventable respiratory viruses, such as influenza, offers evidence of the benefits of expanding the recommended age range for vaccination and provides a baseline and context from which to assess vaccination impact."
Using the Coronavirus Disease 2019-Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network (COVID-NET), the CDC examined COVID-19–associated hospitalizations among adolescents aged 12–17 years, including demographic and clinical characteristics of adolescents admitted during January 1–March 31, 2021, and hospitalization rates (hospitalizations per 100,000 persons) among adolescents during March 1, 2020–April 24, 2021. Among 204 adolescents who were likely hospitalized primarily for COVID-19 during January 1–March 31, 2021, 31.4% were admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU), and 4.9% required invasive mechanical ventilation; there were no associated deaths. During March 1, 2020–April 24, 2021, weekly adolescent hospitalization rates peaked at 2.1 per 100,000 in early January 2021, declined to 0.6 in mid-March, and then rose to 1.3 in April.
Cumulative COVID-19–associated hospitalization rates during October 1, 2020–April 24, 2021, were 2.5–3.0 times higher than were influenza-associated hospitalization rates from three recent influenza seasons (2017–18, 2018–19, and 2019–20) obtained from the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network (FluSurv-NET). Recent increased COVID-19–associated hospitalization rates in March and April 2021 and the potential for severe disease in adolescents reinforce the importance of continued COVID-19 prevention measures, including vaccination and correct and consistent wearing of masks by persons not yet fully vaccinated or when required by laws, rules, or regulations.
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Reference: Havers FP, et al. Hospitalization of Adolescents Aged 12–17 Years with Laboratory-Confirmed COVID-19 — COVID-NET, 14 States, March 1, 2020–April 24, 2021. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Vol. 70. June 4, 2021.