A new US study shows that children under the age of 5 and infected with the Omicron variant have a lower risk of serious health outcomes than children infected with the Delta variant.
The peer-reviewed study, conducted by researchers from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Ohio, is the first large-scale research effort to compare the health outcomes of COVID-19 infection from these variants in children four years of age and younger.
The authors say the findings are significant given the age group that is not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and the limited availability of immunity.
Professor Pamela Davis of CWRU said: “The main conclusion to our study is that more children are infected with Omicron when compared with Delta, but infected children are not as severely affected as children. children infected with the Delta variant. release.
The findings were published Friday in the peer-reviewed medical journal JAMA Pediatrics.
The researchers analyzed the electronic health records of more than 651,640 children in the United States who had “medical encounters with healthcare institutions” between September 2021 and January 2022. According to the study, this includes more than 22,772 children infected with Omicron at the end of the year. December and late January, as well as more than 66,000 children infected with the Delta variant in the fall.
The researchers also compared the health records of more than 10,000 children before Omicron was discovered in the US, but when Delta still dominated.
The study examined the clinical outcomes of these pediatric patients 14 days after infection with COVID-19 and looked at factors such as emergency room visits, hospital admissions, ICU admissions, and use of mechanical ventilation. .
According to research, the Omicron variant is 6 to 8 times more infectious than the Delta variant. However, in children under 5 years of age, less than 2% of children infected with Omicron were hospitalized, compared with 3.3% of children with Delta syndrome.
The researchers reported severe clinical outcomes in infected children four years of age and younger that ranged from a 16% lower risk of emergency room visits to an 85% lower risk of mechanical ventilation.
The researchers also found that children infected with Omicron were on average younger and had fewer comorbidities than those infected with Delta.
“We saw the number of hospital admissions in this age group skyrocket in January of this year because the prevalence of Omicron infection is about 10 to 15 times higher than that of the Delta variant,” said CWRU Professor Rong Xu.
Additionally, Xu said more research is needed to understand the long-term health effects for children infected with COVID-19 variants.
“Since so many unvaccinated children have been infected, the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection on children’s brains, hearts, immune systems and other organs still remain,” said Xu. unknown and worrisome.
As new COVID-19 variants continue to emerge, it remains unclear how the “stealth” version of Omicron – the more transmissible BA.2 subvariant – will affect children in this age group as how.
Preliminary research in Hong Kong found that the BA.2 subvariant was more severe for children than other variants. However, these findings are considered preliminary because they come from a preprint and the study has yet to be reviewed by outside researchers.
According to federal modeling data released Friday, health officials say a COVID-19 resurgence is underway in Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada said sub-BA.2, people’s declining immunity and a return to more in-person activities appear to be related to the current increase.