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Babies account for bigger share of Covid hospitalisations

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 14/01/2022 John Ely Senior Health Reporter For Mailonline

Omicron may not be less severe to babies and the youngest children, Government experts have warned.

Children under the age of one make up a greater share of NHS admissions now than in old waves, data shows.  

The findings have promoted health chiefs to investigate further.

But No10's own scientific advisers have stressed that the overall risk Covid poses to children remains tiny. Just one in 500,000 children who get infected will end up in intensive care, studies have suggested.   

Experts say the recent rise is likely to be a reflection of general admissions, with a number of Covid cases in infants only being discovered when a child was admitted to hospital for another reason, also known as 'incidental' cases.

Others have highlighted how with most adults and older children protected from severe Covid illness by either vaccination or prior infection, it was unsurprising younger children were forming a larger part of hospital admissions.

Data on Covid hospitalisations among children emerged in a document released by SAGE today.

Ninety-four admissions occurred among infants under the age of 12-months between December 14 and January 6.

This accounted for 37.8 per cent of all Covid hospitalisations among children in that period, a marked proportional rise compared to previous stages of the pandemic. 

The most recent SAGE report noted there has been an increase of the proportion of children under the age of one being admitted to hospital with Covid in recent weeks but experts have noted they are staying for less time than at previous points in the pandemic © Provided by Daily Mail The most recent SAGE report noted there has been an increase of the proportion of children under the age of one being admitted to hospital with Covid in recent weeks but experts have noted they are staying for less time than at previous points in the pandemic A SAGE report found a total of 94 children were admitted to hospital with Covid between December 14 and January 6 but most stayed in care for just under two days © Provided by Daily Mail A SAGE report found a total of 94 children were admitted to hospital with Covid between December 14 and January 6 but most stayed in care for just under two days

Millions of Covid vaccines 'may need to be BINNED' if young people don't come forward for their booster jabs 

 Millions of Covid vaccines could be binned unless booster uptake picks up in young people, the Government fears. 

The booster drive has slowed to just 140,000 jabs a day, barely a fifth of the number being dished out in the run-up to Christmas.  

This is despite 20million adults in England still being without their extra doses — or 40 per cent of all over-18s. Rates are even lower in 18-24 year olds, sitting at around the 30 per cent mark. 

In terms of those who are eligible, meaning those who got their second dose at least three months ago, only half have come forward. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid today called on young adults to get their booster jabs, saying it will help 'keep you and your loved ones safe'. Officials have embarked on another advertising blitz in hopes of driving up uptake.

But there are concerns that the collapsing Omicron wave and ebbing sense of crisis will lead to fewer people coming forward.  

Between May and December 2021, only 30.4 per cent of admissions among children were among babies under the age of 12-months. 

But only one death occurred in the most recent period, according to the team's report 

The team, a sub-group of SAGE known as CO-CIN, also found infants were staying in hospital for less time.

Infected children spent two days on NHS wards during the Omicron wave, compared to three days in previous surges. 

And they were less likely to need oxygen, scientists claimed. Only 12.7 per cent of infants needed oxygen during their hospital stay between December and January, compared to 20.6 per cent earlier in 2021.

Professor Calum Semple, a SAGE adviser and paediatrician at Liverpool University, called for calm over the findings. 

He said: 'The big question is: are these children desperately ill or not? 

'I really want to emphasise here the fact that these are not particularly sick infants. In fact, they’re coming in for short periods of time for investigations.' 

SAGE itself discussed the trend at its meeting on January 7, with the panel noting the apparent increase in hospitalisations among children.

Video: Janey Godley's cancer surgery pushed back due to Covid-19 pandemic (Daily Record)

Advisers said: 'Unlike in other age groups, there does not appear to be a reduction in hospitalisation risk for Omicron compared to Delta in younger children, though there is no indication of an increase in serious disease.'

Minutes of its meetings acknowledged the numbers were 'small' and that doctors in South Africa saw a similar trend, only for it to even out as more data came in.

SAGE accepted more data was needed but insisted they were highly confident that the absolute risk of hospital admission for children remains 'very low'.

Meeting minutes added: 'For the small number of children who do attend hospital, the length of stay is typically short and where they stay overnight it is often to allow for screening for other infections.' 

Meanwhile, UK Health Security Agency chief medical advisor Susan Hopkins said it will investigate the 'small rise' in children admitted to hospital. 

'Early data shows that young children who are hospitalised experience mild illness and are discharged after short stays in hospital,' she said.

© Provided by Daily Mail

England 'WILL scrap Covid passes and WFH at the end of the month’ 

Controversial Covid passes will be scrapped in England this month as the country's Omicron wave continues to collapse, it was claimed today. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid is said to have told MPs that he shared their 'instinctive discomfort' at the certificates, which 100 Tories voted against. 

Ministers are also keen to ditch widespread working from home guidance when the current Plan B measures are reviewed on January 26. It could mean that compulsory masks on public transport and in shops will be the only remaining curb.  

Britain's Covid cases have fallen week-on-week for the past eight days in a row, with 109,000 new positive tests on Thursday. Hospital admissions have also flatlined.

At a meeting with Tory MPs yesterday, Mr Javid hailed the 'encouraging signs' – but  warned that hospitals remained under 'significant pressure', The Times reports.  

Currently, people in England need to show proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow to enter large events and nightclubs.

A Whitehall source told the newspaper: 'There was always a very high threshold for the policy and it looks increasingly likely in a couple of weeks that threshold won't be met. The way cases are going it will be hard to justify renewing.'

Boris Johnson faced his biggest Tory revolt since the start of the pandemic over the introduction of Plan B measures last month, with nearly 100 Conservatives defying the party whip to vote against them.

Other experts said it was important to clarify if the children were in hospital because of Covid.

Omicron's sheer prevalence has led to a huge spike in 'incidental' admissions across all ages.  

Professor Kevin McConway, an Open University statistician, argued the findings may have been skewed by vaccination rates.  

'Though vaccines are less effective against Omicron, they are not totally ineffective,' he said.

'So different levels of vaccination in different age groups amongst the 0-17-year-olds could possibly explain some of the proportional differences.' 

Dr Alasdair Munro, a specialist in paediatric infectious diseases from the University of Southampton, echoed the vaccination sentiments.

He said: 'The vast majority of adults have now been immunised.

'And the majority of children over five have either been infected before, have been immunised, or both. 

'The group with the lowest rate of immunity is children under five, and in particular, children under the age of one year. 

'This means we would expect a larger proportion of admissions to be among this population, which is what is demonstrated in this data.' 

But Professor Christina Pagel, a a mathematician and member of Independent SAGE - a group that has advocated for tighter restrictions throughout the pandemic - said the data was 'concerning'. 

'It is possible that Omicron’s preference for upper airways is affecting young children more,' she said.

'We urgently need to understand more about what might be causing this increase.  

Professor Russell Viner an expert in child health at University College London, and former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: 'I think we’re seeing Covid behaving a bit more like the normal winter viruses that you see in children. 

'Parents – just do what you always do for winter viruses and children. 

'If you’re worried, talk to your GP – they are open. If you’re really worried, ring NHS 111 or take your child to hospital.' 

Data from September last year, covering the period before Omicron shot onto the scene, indicated that Covid posed a minuscule risk to children. Even unvaccinated youngsters face a vanishingly small threat of becoming seriously ill. 

It showed around one in 300,000 boys aged between 10 and 14 and one in 200,000 girls of the same age who test positive for Covid end up dying. 

The rates include both healthy children and ones with underlying health conditions which put them at a much higher risk of death.   

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