CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — COVID-19 hospitalizations rose among U.S. adolescents in March and April, and nearly a third of those hospitalized needed intensive care, according to data from more than 250 hospitals in 14 states released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.
“Rates of COVID-19-associated hospitalization among adolescents also exceeded historical rates of seasonal influenza-associated hospitalization during comparable periods,” researchers reported in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The hospitals reported a total of 204 adolescents were hospitalized for COVID-19 in March and April. “Until they are fully vaccinated, adolescents should continue to wear masks and take precautions when around others who are not vaccinated to protect themselves and their family, friends, and community,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement on Friday.
“I ask parents, relatives and close friends to join me and talk with teens about the importance of these prevention strategies and to encourage them to get vaccinated.”
Doctors say this might be a symptom of the progress vaccines are making in adults.
“We’ve always seen COVID and children, I just think now, since the rates are down in the adult population, I think there’s more attention that’s being paid to the pediatric population,” Dr. Tina Tran with Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital told Marni Hughes Friday. “Since it started the pandemic, there have been over 4 million children that have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and this has resulted in over 16,000 hospitalizations.”
Complicating matters is a new report showing temporary heart inflammation may be a rare side effect of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in teenagers, according to pediatricians who reported on seven cases from across the United States.
The previously healthy adolescents, all boys, developed chest pain within four days after their second dose. MRI exams showed myocarditis or heart muscle inflammation. “Fortunately, none of our patients was critically ill,” the authors reported on Friday in Pediatrics.
“We do not know in some of those cases, whether those individuals had an asymptomatic case of COVID that was contributing to the myocarditis,” Tran said. “We don’t know whether or not these individuals actually had another cause for myocarditis. But these are all things that we continue to look for.”
The boys’ symptoms resolved “rapidly” with medication.
Measures of cardiac status had returned to normal at check-ups performed after one-to-three weeks. Myocarditis is a known rare adverse event following other vaccinations, the authors noted. There is no proof, however, that the vaccine caused these cases.
“So far, over 2.2 million teenagers (aged) 16-17 have already received 2 doses of Pfizer vaccine, and over 3 million kids 12-15 years old have received dose #1,” said co-author Dr. Judy Guzman-Cottrill of Oregon Health & Science University.
“These are huge, very reassuring denominators.” COVID-19 itself can cause myocarditis, she noted. “After looking at the risks and benefits, the data support getting kids vaccinated.”
Reuters contributed to this report.