Elizabeth (Izzy) Montgomery, MPA
Adolescent hospitalization rates for COVID-19 increased during March‒April 2021, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) study published online Friday, June 4. The study found that after a January 2021 peak of 2.1 hospitalizations per 100,000 adolescents aged 12‒17 years, the hospitalization rate among that age group declined to 0.6 per 100,000 in mid-March, then rose to 1.3 per 100,000 in April. Of 204 adolescent hospitalizations assessed for the study, nearly one-third required an intensive care unit admission, and 5% required mechanical ventilation. No deaths occurred among the 204 hospitalizations assessed.
During a Tuesday, June 8, press briefing, Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero noted the findings of the CDC study and emphasized the need to vaccinate adolescents against COVID-19. However, he said adolescent hospitalization rates for COVID-19 had remained steady in Arkansas over the period assessed in the CDC study on a national level.
Dr. Romero noted that only about 10% of adolescents in the state had received the vaccine so far. On May 12, the CDC recommended the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in children aged 12 and up, following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to authorize emergency use of the vaccine for that age group. Prior to that point, use of the Pfizer vaccine was limited to adolescents aged 16 and up.
While the upward trend in adolescent hospitalizations nationally has not been observed in Arkansas, keeping a close eye on this trend will be important, particularly as efforts to increase vaccination rates among adolescents continue. As of Monday, June 7, there had been 218 cumulative hospitalizations among the 11-to-17-year-old age group in Arkansas and over 29,000 cumulative cases for the same age group.