After declining at the beginning of this year, the number of adolescents who became seriously ill with COVID-19 and were hospitalized shot up in March and April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this month. Nearly one-third were treated in an intensive care unit and 5% required mechanical ventilation.
Far more adults are hospitalized with COVID-19. But the sharp rise in adolescent cases underscores the need to continue prevention measures, including vaccinations, masks and distancing, the CDC wrote.
The study, based on 204 new adolescent COVID-19 cases in 14 states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Utah—was conducted between March 1 and April 24.
The rate of COVID-related adolescent hospitalizations peaked at 2.1 per 100,000 in early January 2021, declined to 0.6 in mid-March and rose to 1.3 in April, according to the report.
“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,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky in a recent statement. “Much of this suffering can be prevented.”
The Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use for adolescents May 10. Since then, 6.7 million adolescents have gotten a shot, roughly 27% of the 12- to 17-year-old population. For adults, who started receiving COVID-19 vaccines in December, vaccine coverage is 64%.
Until adolescents are fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends they continue to wear masks and take precautions when around people who are not vaccinated to protect themselves and their family, friends and community.
“I ask parents, relatives and close friends to join me and talk with teens about the importance of these prevention strategies and to encourage them to get vaccinated,” Walensky said.