Children too at risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation, new report shows

16 September 2021 - 07:00
A new NICD report says about 19% of Covid-19 deaths are children aged one year and younger.
A new NICD report says about 19% of Covid-19 deaths are children aged one year and younger.
Image: REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

Children as young as 15 have lost their lives due to Covid-19, and at least 7% of patients admitted to intensive care units have been aged 18 and younger.

This is according to a National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD) report.

According to the NICD's latest monthly Covid-19 in children surveillance report, between March 2020 and August 28, 2021, people under the age of 19 made up 14.2% of Covid-19 tests and almost 12% of laboratory-confirmed cases. teenagers and young children accounted for almost 8% of admissions and 0.7% of hospital deaths.

There were 201 deaths (35.6%) among individuals aged between 15 and 19, and 108 (19.1%)  were children aged one year and below.

There were 2.2-million Covid-19 tests conducted on teens and young children, with 15.8% testing positive between March 2020 and August 28.

About 184,187 confirmed Covid-19 cases were teenagers and young children, with 17,184 admitted to hospital. There were about 565 Covid-19-related deaths during the surveillance period.

During the third wave, the testing rate increased in all ages among teenagers and children, with the 15 to 19-year age group peaking between the end of June and mid August 2021.

Between weeks 27 (end of June to early July) and 33 (mid August) this year, the percentage of positive tests among the age groups 10-14 and 15-19 surpassed that of people older than 19.

The report also shows during the third wave, the weekly incidence of confirmed cases among teens and young children peaked in mid June and mid August while schools were open, with the rate of cases in the age group 15-19 years surpassing those in adults.

The cumulative incidence of confirmed Covid-19 cases among this group between March 2020 to August 2021 was 6,392.2 per 100,000 population - about 4.3 times higher than that those aged above 19, which is 1,482.1 per 100,000 population

The latest stats also show that the weekly incidence of Covid-19 hospital admissions in teens and young children increased in all age groups in the third wave, with babies under the age of one year having the highest incidence which peaked by the end of June.

The incidence of admission among children aged 19 years and younger was 11.9 times lower (787.3 per 1-million) than those above 19 years, which was 9,367.3 per 1-million people.

The report shows that as of September 19 last year, children and adolescents younger than 18 years made up 8% of confirmed Covid-19 cases and 3.2% of all Covid-19-associated admissions. The cumulative incidence of laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases for teens and young children a year ago was 256 per 100,000 population, six times lower than that in adults, which was 1,544 per 100,000 people. Limpopo accounted for the lowest number of Covid-19 cases in children a year ago while the Free State had the highest number.

A year ago there were only 2,229 reported Covid-19  admissions among those aged 18 and below, compared with 184,187 in August this year.

Of these, 240 (or 15%) had at least one underlying condition. Asthma and other chronic lung conditions, including HIV, were the most common underlying conditions. The average length of hospital stay among Covid-19-associated admissions among 18-year-olds and younger was three days. About 7% ended up admitted into ICUs and 3% were ventilated.