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Weekly COVID-19 hospitalization rates among US children and adolescents increased 5-fold this past summer as the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant became the dominant circulating strain, according to data from the Coronavirus Disease 2019–Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network (COVID-NET).
Based on information from 99 counties in 14 states, weekly COVID-19 hospitalization rates among youths fell between mid-June and early July to 0.3 per 100 000 children and adolescents, the lowest during 2021. But as the Delta variant took hold, the weekly rate climbed to 1.4 per 100 000 children and adolescents by mid-August, nearly matching the peak of 1.5 per 100 000 in early January.
Although hospitalizations rose during this time frame among all ages up to 17 years, the sharpest was a 10-fold increase among those younger than 4 years, from 0.2 to about 2 per 100 000 children and adolescents. Between late June and the end of July, when vaccination was available for youths aged 12 years or older, the hospitalization rate of 0.8 per 100 000 person-weeks among unvaccinated adolescents was nearly 10 times higher than the rate among vaccinated youths.
According to COVID-NET data, the cumulative COVID-19–related hospitalization rate among youths from March 2020 through mid-August 2021 was about 50 per 100 000 children and adolescents. Throughout the pandemic, COVID-19–related hospitalization rates have been highest among children younger than 4 years followed by rates among those aged 12 to 17 years.
About one-quarter of all hospitalized children required intensive care before and after the Delta variant emerged. The proportion requiring mechanical ventilation increased from about 6% to 10% as Delta spread, according to the authors.
Kuehn BM. Delta Variant Linked With Spike in Youth Hospitalizations. JAMA. 2021;326(14):1366. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.16667
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