For the second consecutive week, new COVID-19 infection rates among children in the U.S. have seen a notable increase, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA).
Last week, 37,000 additional child COVID-19 cases were reported, an increase of about 43% from two weeks ago. The jump in infections follows weeks of steady declines, and marks the first increase since January.
Overall, numbers remain significantly lower than during other surges of the pandemic. However, many Americans, who are taking at-home tests, are not submitting their results to their local public health authorities. Thus, health experts said that daily case totals are likely significantly higher than the numbers officially reported and tallied.
In the Northeast, infection rates are at their highest level in eight weeks, while the Midwest is reporting its highest proportion of new cases since the end of February.
A total of 12.9 million children have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic, and children represent about a fifth of all reported cases on record.
Nationally, pediatric virus-related hospital admissions have also seen their first increase in three months — up by 5% in the last week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, AAP and CHA report that a small percentage of pediatric cases have resulted in hospitalization and death.
According to the nearly two dozen states, which reported pediatric hospitalizations, 0.1%-1.5% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in hospitalization. Similarly, in states which reported virus-related deaths by age, 0.00%-0.27% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in death.
Even so, health experts stress that any uptick in severe illness among children is concerning.
The increases in pediatric COVID cases are renewing calls for children to be inoculated against COVID-19. Although the COVID-19 has been authorized under emergency use for all children over the age of 5 for nearly six months, tens of millions of children remain completely unvaccinated.
At this time, just under 26 million children, over the age of 5 — about half of those eligible — remain completely unvaccinated, and overall, just 43.1% of eligible children have been fully vaccinated.
Many parents of young children have also been vocalizing their frustration over the delayed rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine for children under the age of five.
Top Biden administration officials said those shots could be available as early as June.
Both Moderna or Pfizer have yet to fully submit their vaccine data to the Food and Drug Administration, the agency said last week, but Moderna, which has a two-dose vaccine for children under five, is expected to officially file a request for authorization by the end of the month, a spokesperson for the company confirmed.
Pfizer, which has been conducting clinical trials on a three-dose vaccine for kids under five, is expected to have results by early May, is projecting an authorization of its three-dose vaccine sometime in June, according to the company’s CEO, Albert Bourla.
“I am frustrated on their behalf,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told CNN’s "State of the Union," said, in reference to some of his friends, who are frustrated that vaccines for young children have yet to be authorized.
It’s “very hard to prejudge a specific date and time” as to when these vaccines will become available, Jha said, adding that he expects the shots to be available in the “next couple months.”
AAP and CHA noted there is an "urgent" need to collect more age-specific data to assess the severity of illness related to new variants as well as potential longer-term effects.
"It is important to recognize there are immediate effects of the pandemic on children’s health, but importantly we need to identify and address the long-lasting impacts on the physical, mental, and social well-being of this generation of children and youth," the organizations wrote.