Child COVID cases drop but vaccination rates lag behind adults, experts say: Live updates

COVID-19 cases have fallen dramatically across the U.S. in recent weeks, and pediatric cases are no exception.

Coronavirus cases in children totaled 300,000 in the week ending Feb. 10, less than a third of cases recorded in a week during omicron’s peak in mid-January, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported

Despite dropping case counts, child COVID cases are still higher than the peak level of delta’s reign in 2021, according to the organization, and vaccination rates in children are falling behind adult rates at a staggering rate.

87.5% of adults in the U.S. have received at least one COVID vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But only 66% of children ages 12- 17 have received one shot, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Younger children have even worse inoculation rates, with only 31% of 5-11 year-olds having received one dose of the COVID vaccine. 

There’s no clear reason as to why children have much lower vaccine rates, although vaccines for children were approved much later than adult vaccines.

Vaccines are not yet available for children under age 5 in the U.S. On Friday, Pfizer and BioNTech pushed the pause button on the process of authorizing its COVID-19 vaccine for children under five. 

On Monday, Hong Kong authorities said they will begin vaccinating children as young as 3 years old to combat a record surge of infections.

Also in the news:

►Federal health officials are warning U.S. travelers to avoid more than 135 destinations, including South Korea and Belarus, as of Monday due to COVID-19.

►Sweden is recommending a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to people over age 80 and those living in nursing homes or getting home care, authorities said Monday, adding it must be administered no earlier than four months after the previous shot. 

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 77.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 922,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 413.3 million cases and over 5.8 million deaths. More than 213.9 million Americans – 64.4% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘 What we’re reading: The four free COVID-19 rapid tests President Joe Biden promised in December for every American household have begun arriving in earnest in mailboxes and on doorsteps. How much is the government paying for each test? And what were the terms of the agreements? The government won’t yet say, even though, by law, this information should be available.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s free Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Staying in the ICU with COVID leaves long-term impacts, experts say

Most people who die of COVID-19 first spend time in an ICU.

Early in the pandemic, about one-third of COVID-19 patients treated in intensive care died. Those figures are far better now, though precise numbers aren’t available.

A study published in late January found that among Dutch people treated for COVID-19 in an ICU, 74% still had physical symptoms a year later, including weakness and muscle and joint pain. More than a quarter reported lingering mental symptoms and 16% had cognitive problems. 

COVID-19 patients who end up in intensive care have a rougher road than those with other respiratory illnesses, often suffering long-term organ damage, said Dr. Amit Gaggar, an attending physician in ICUs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Birmingham VA Medical Center. 

After being released, many have lingering shortness of breath, new or exacerbated heart failure, kidney problems and lung scarring – all conditions that are possible after an ICU stay without COVID-19. But, Gaggar said, “the degree is a lot more severe with the COVID population.”

— Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

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