December 7, 2021

Child COVID cases are on the rise, jumping 32% in latest surge

A health care worker prepares to administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines at an elementary school vaccination site for children ages 5 to 11.
Enlarge / A health care worker prepares to administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines at an elementary school vaccination site for children ages 5 to 11.

Cases of COVID-19 are increasing in children, and they continue to account for an out-sized proportion of infections, according to the latest data compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The fresh data comes at the start of a holiday week and a new surge in cases, worrying experts that the pandemic—and its impact on children—will only worsen as the country heads into the winter months. Travel during this week will likely rival pre-pandemic levels, according to estimates by AAA and the Transportation Security Administration. And many families are anxious to resume holiday traditions and packed family gatherings, in which unvaccinated children are at risk of getting and transmitting the virus.

In the week of November 11 to 18, nearly 142,000 children reported getting COVID-19. That’s an increase of 32 percent from two weeks ago. Overall, cases of COVID-19 in the US have increased 27 percent in the past two weeks.

Children accounted for just over 25 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the week ending on November 18. However, children make up only about 22 percent of the US population. As more adults have gotten vaccinated, children have made up larger shares of infections. Throughout the whole pandemic, children have made up nearly 17 percent of all cases. Almost 6.8 million children are known to have been infected since the pandemic began.

Though children have lower risks of severe disease and death from COVID-19, at least 25,000 children have been hospitalized during the pandemic for COVID-19 and at least 636 children have died, according to data from the AAP. Pediatricians also note that the long-term effects of COVID-19 on children are unknown, and some do develop prolonged symptoms. Lastly, even if children have mild cases of COVID-19, they can still transmit the virus, potentially to elderly relatives and caregivers, who are at higher risk of severe disease.

Health officials continue to strongly encourage parents to get their children vaccinated. As of this month, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is available to children ages 5 to 11. The vaccine has been available for adolescents ages 12 and up since May. Just on Monday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced new clinical trial results finding that their vaccine was 100 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in children ages 12 through 15 over a period of at least four months.

In a White House press briefing Monday, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that more than 12 million teens who are eligible for vaccination are not yet fully vaccinated.