An increase in the number of American children admitted to hospital with Covid-19 is dividing doctors and regulators on either side of the Atlantic.
Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, wrote to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging it to work “aggressively” to clear the Covid-19 vaccine for patients. children from five to 11 years old.
The jab is already available to children over 12 in the United States and the advocacy came as the country experienced the largest weekly spike in pediatric Covid cases since the start of the pandemic.
According to official data, the rate of admissions to pediatric hospitals in the United States is now 3.75 times higher than it was a month ago and is equal to its highest level since January.
“The delta variant has created a new and pressing risk for children and adolescents across the country,” Dr. Beers wrote in the letter sent to the FDA Thursday.
“Paediatricians and the families they care for are eagerly awaiting a vaccine that can be used in children 11 years of age and under, and especially now given the rise of the hyperinfectious delta variant. “
In the UK, the situation is very different, although the country is experiencing a similar increase in delta cases.
Doctors here are only reporting a modest increase in child hospital admissions linked to Covid and are not pushing for changes to UK vaccine policy, which recommends that children with underlying conditions or vulnerable caregivers are vaccinated.
So why the difference? Do American doctors have an early idea of something that might later play out here, or do different social factors – such as vaccinations and obesity rates – explain the fracture better?
Pediatric intensive care consultant Dr Ruchi Sinha told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Coronavirus (APPG) yesterday that the delta wave has so far not resulted in a higher proportion of children admitted to the hospital in UK.
Indeed, the incidence of multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) that Covid triggers in some children appears to be at lower levels than in previous waves, she said.
The majority of children admitted to hospital with Covid in the UK had underlying conditions, including obesity, she added.
“I think we should offer the vaccine to children who are vulnerable and more likely to suffer,” said Dr Sinha.
“I think it’s fair to roll out a vaccine for 16-18 year olds, but I think the general rollout for 12-16 year olds depends on whether we see an increase in hospitalization rates in intensive care rates. .
“If we move towards opening schools and find that there is an increase… then absolutely, we have to reassess. But at the moment, the Covid-19 is not in itself the problem. “
One factor that may explain the American experience is the decline in vaccine coverage rates in some communities where the delta variant is booming.
For example, the total number of hospital admissions in Florida is now at its highest level since the start of the pandemic, in large part because less than half of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.
Dr Sinha suggested that this and the incidence of co-morbidities, including obesity, in affected communities could explain the increase in admissions to the United States among children.
“I don’t know what the demographics or the phenotype are of these children from Texas and Florida among those who are getting seriously ill, so we need more information,” she told the APPG.
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