In-Depth: What's the real risk of COVID for kids 5-11?

Posted at 7:30 PM, Nov 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-03 22:41:42-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Among all the age groups now eligible for vaccination, children aged 5 through 11 have the lowest risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

Even so, doctors say vaccinating this age group is critical, both for the protection of the children and those around them.

Here’s a breakdown of the latest data on COVID severity in kids 5-11.

The risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 in children 5-11 is significantly lower than adults, according to COVID-NET data maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over the last five weeks, the risk of hospitalization in adults over 65 was about 27 times higher than in children 5 to 11. Hospitalization risk was seven times higher in adults 18 to 49 compared to this cohort of children. It was 1.6 times higher among older youth 12 to 17.

The average hospitalization rate over the last five weeks for kids 5 to 11 was 0.8 cases per 100,000, according to COVID-NET.

The Food and Drug Administration assembled several models when weighing the risks and benefits of vaccination in this age group. In three of its six models, the agency projected that 1 million vaccinations among kids 5-11 would prevent 45,773 COVID infections and 192 hospitalizations over a six-month period.

Put another way: the agency estimated that one out of every 240 infections in this age group results in hospitalization.

From there, about one out of every three hospitalizations in this cohort requires intensive care.

The risk of death in children 5-11 is low. Out of 1.9 million infections in this age group, 94 cases resulted in death as of October 16.

The CDC says 0.6 percent of 5- to 11-year-olds hospitalized with COVID have died from the disease.

“Yes, it is true that the overall hospitalization and death rate is much lower for kids than it is for adults,” said Dr. Christian Ramers of Family Health Centers of San Diego. “Nobody is going to argue about that, but it’s not zero. And it’s not just in cases of kids with underlying conditions.”

About one-third of children hospitalized from COVID had no underlying health issues. The most common underlying condition among those that had one was obesity.

Then there is the risk of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children or MIS-C. The condition typically strikes two to six weeks after the infection and results in severe inflammation. It can be diagnosed in people as old as 20.

There is about one MIS-C case for every 3,200 COVID infections, according to the CDC. However, the risk is highest among children aged 5 to 11. That age group accounts for 44 percent of all MIS-C cases.

Children can also suffer from long COVID. A national survey in the UK found 7 to 8 percent of children with COVID-19 experienced lingering symptoms more than 12 weeks after their initial diagnosis. Post-COVID cases in children can occur after severe and mild cases.

Children can also transmit the virus to susceptible adults.

“I’ve had several patients on my own who have actually died; people in their 80s and 90s who were infected by their grandkids that came home,” said Dr. Ramers.

One final number: 8.

In the 5 to 11 age group, health officials estimate that COVID is the 8th leading cause of death.

Death statistics for other conditions are not yet available for 2020, so health officials compared one year of COVID deaths to 2019 statistics.

Based on the low number of influenza deaths among children in 2020, COVID could rank higher on the list.