Up to a third of all child deaths from COVID-19 in the United States have occurred during the surge of highly contagious Omicron variant, according to newly released data.
“We saw a massive surge of hospitalized young children during Omicron that we did not see in the earlier months of the pandemic,” said Jason Kane, a pediatric intensivist and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital told The Guardian .
Since the beginning of the year, 550 children in the US have died from COVID-19, compared with 1,017 kids over the previous 22 months, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Omicron was first identified in November, and within weeks it became the dominant variant in the country.
Omicron may affect kids differently than previous variants of the virus. It tends to infect the upper airways, which are narrower and can be more easily irritated in children.
“It’s no longer fair even to insinuate that COVID does not affect children; that COVID deaths are only in unhealthy children or kids with risk factors, ”Kane said. “That’s just not true by the data.”