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About 75% of children and adolescents have evidence of a previous COVID-19 infection and about one-third of those infections came during the omicron surge this winter, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Experts are continuing to urge everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated and boosted, as they don’t know how long the antibodies will provide protection. Reinfections are possible, especially as new variants emerge.
“We know SARS-CoV-2 infection can cause severe disease, whereas COVID-19 vaccination is safe and effective at preventing it, so, as a pediatrician and a parent I would absolutely continue to endorse that children get vaccinated even if they have been previously infected,” said Kristie E.N. Clarke, C.D.R., M.D., M.S.C.R., FAAP, co-lead for the CDC’s COVID-19 Epidemiology & Surveillance Taskforce Seroprevalence Team.
The findings published today in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report are based on testing of blood samples for anti-nucleocapsid antibodies. The presence of these antibodies would indicate previous infection and would not be influenced by vaccination.
Authors found 58% of people had evidence of a previous COVID infection as of February, up from 34% in December 2021. Antibodies from infection were found in 75% of children ages 0-11 years, up from 44% before omicron. Similarly, 74% of adolescents ages 12-17 years had these antibodies, up from 46%.
The biggest increases in evidence of infection during the omicron surge were among children and adolescents, the age groups with the lowest vaccination rates. About 28% of children ages 5-11 years and 59% of adolescents ages 12-17 years are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
In the past week, there have been about 44,416 new COVID-19 cases per day, an increase of about 23% from the previous week, according to the CDC. COVID-19 hospital admissions are averaging 1,629 a day, up about 7%. Deaths are down 13% from the previous week, averaging about 314 a day.
About two-thirds of new cases are caused by the BA.2 variant, while about 29% are BA.2.12.1. So far, it appears the latter may be more transmissible than BA.2, but not more severe, according to CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H.
“We continue to believe those who are vaccinated and especially those who are boosted continue to have strong protection against severe disease even from BA.2.12.1,” she said.