The Omicron epidemic has raised the alarm, but because the virus has been vaccinated or the virus may be weaker, the threat to life is not as serious as the previous virus. But that may not be the case. A study in Hong Kong, which is ravaged by the Omicron variant, found that the Omicron variant BA.2 caused more hospitalizations, serious complications and deaths in young children than the previous virus.
The mainstream virus that killed more than 7,000 people in Hong Kong this time was BA.2, most of whom were elderly and unvaccinated. In addition to not being vaccinated, experts believe that the severe epidemic is also related to the previous success of Hong Kong’s epidemic prevention, and most people do not have natural immunity.
A look at the children’s cases makes it clearer that the Omicron variant isn’t actually mild. Researchers from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Princess Margaret Hospital review childhood hospitalizations at different stages of the pandemic, with 1,147 hospitalized cases of Omicron among children aged 0-11 in Hong Kong between 5 and 28 February alone , of which more than 80% are 0-5 years old. The need for pediatric intensive care treatment was even higher by 1.83%, 18 times higher than the previous strain, and only 1 child was admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit in all previous Covid outbreaks in Hong Kong, twice the rate of influenza.
And among the 4 children who died, 3 of them did not have any congenital diseases, and the ages were 11 months, 3 years and 4 years old, compared with the cases from January 2020 to November 2021. There were no child deaths. In terms of symptoms caused, Omicron caused an increased number of seizures in unvaccinated children and was more specific to the upper respiratory tract than previous variants and influenza. The research has been submitted to the journal The Lancet.
But the Hong Kong study differs from the U.S. findings, where a Case Western Reserve University study in JAMA Pediatrics re-examines more than 651,640 people infected in the U.S. between September 2021 and January 2022 Electronic health records of children under the age of 5 found that about 1.8% of children infected with Omicron were hospitalized, compared with 3.3% for Delta.
But U.S. Pediatric Infectious Diseases Dr. Beth Thielen believes that the Hong Kong findings do not apply to the U.S., where a larger portion of the U.S. population may have been infected at some point before Delta or BA.1, and therefore a larger population immunity. Even though the U.S. finds lower rates of severe childhood illness, experts are concerned that some children are at higher risk for multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) and the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection on children’s brains, hearts, immune systems and other organs Still unknown and worrying.
Although the Hong Kong study results may seem scary, Dr. Claudia Hoyen, a pediatric infectious disease expert in the United States, said parents should not panic because the chances of a child dying from Omicron are still very low. The significance of the Hong Kong study is to provide important observations on the raw power of this variant in vulnerable populations and to highlight the urgency of vaccinating children against Covid-19 and the need for more treatments in this age group.
In early February, Pfizer asked the U.S. to authorize ultra-low-dose vaccines for children under 5 years of age. Children 6 months to 4 years old may soon be eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the CDC said on its website, without specifying when.