News from the FDA/CDC

Children and COVID: Weekly cases fall to lowest level in over a year


With the third autumn of the COVID era now upon us, the discussion has turned again to a possible influenza/COVID twindemic, as well as the new-for-2022 influenza/COVID/respiratory syncytial virus tripledemic. It appears, however, that COVID may have missed the memo.

For the sixth time in the last 7 weeks, the number of new COVID cases in children fell, with just under 23,000 reported during the week of Oct. 14-20, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. That is the lowest weekly count so far this year, and the lowest since early July of 2021, just as the Delta surge was starting. New pediatric cases had dipped to 8,500, the lowest for any week during the pandemic, a couple of weeks before that, the AAP/CHA data show.

Number of weekly COVID-19 cases reported in children, United States

Weekly cases have fallen by almost 75% since over 90,000 were reported for the week of Aug. 26 to Sept. 1, even as children have returned to school and vaccine uptake remains slow in the youngest age groups. Rates of emergency department visits with diagnosed COVID also have continued to drop, as have new admissions, and both are nearing their 2021 lows, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New vaccinations in children under age 5 years were up slightly for the most recent week (Oct. 13-19), but total uptake for that age group is only 7.1% for an initial dose and 2.9% for full vaccination. Among children aged 5-11 years, 38.7% have received at least one dose and 31.6% have completed the primary series, with corresponding figures of 71.2% and 60.9% for those aged 12-17, the CDC said on its COVID Data Tracker.

Despite the low overall numbers, though, the youngest children are, in one respect, punching above their weight when it comes to vaccinations. In the 2 weeks from Oct. 6 to Oct. 19, children under 5 years of age, who represent 5.9% of the U.S. population, received 9.2% of the initial vaccine doses administered. Children aged 5-11 years, who represent 8.7% of the total population, got just 4.2% of all first doses over those same 2 weeks, while 12- to 17-year-olds, who make up 7.6% of the population, got 3.4% of the vaccine doses, the CDC reported.

Children under age 5 who received the initial dose of COVID-19 vaccine

On the vaccine-approval front, the Food and Drug Administration recently announced that the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccines are now included in the emergency use authorizations for children who have completed primary or booster vaccination. The Moderna vaccine is authorized as a single-dose booster for children as young as 6 years and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be given as a single booster dose in children as young as 5 years, the FDA said.

“These bivalent COVID-19 vaccines include an mRNA component of the original strain to provide an immune response that is broadly protective against COVID-19 and an mRNA component in common between the omicron variant BA.4 and BA.5 lineages,” the FDA said.

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