COVID: Omicron variant is infecting children at a higher rate

The Omicron variant is putting more and more children in the hospital, but experts are saying different things about the severity of the infection.

COVID in children
© Rusty Watson/UNSPLASH
COVID in children

South African health officials have confirmed that theOmicron variant has been infecting children at a higher rate than that seen with its predecessors. Ntsakisi Maluleke, a public health specialist, informed Reuters that of the 1,511 COVID patients in hospitals in the Gauteng province of South Africa, around 113 were under the age of nine.

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Mild cases in children

Some experts believe that there is no cause for alarm as most of the infections are mild. Maluleke said:

We are comforted by clinicians’ reports that the children have mild disease.
They [health workers] would rather have a child under care for a day or two than having a child at home and complicating… but we really need to wait for the evidence.

But other medical practitioners have had different experiences. Dr. Rudo Mathivha from Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto told SABC News that children are being hospitalised with moderate to severe infections. She said:

We are now seeing them [children] coming in with moderate to severe symptoms needing supplemental oxygen, needing supportive therapy, needing to stay in hospital for quite a number of days.

Change in the virus?

Currently children below 12 years of age are not eligible to get their COVID vaccine in South Africa. While that may be a suspected reason behind the spike of infections in young children, vaccination rates have been low across all age bands. Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, believes that another reason could be that virus that has changed altogether. She told Mirror:

But it is worrying. Something has changed about the virus that is now affecting children under five, and we don't know what it is
COVID: Unusual symptom of Omicron variant is becoming more common COVID: Unusual symptom of Omicron variant is becoming more common