Do Kids Get Sick From COVID?

This last week I released a new podcast titled Kids and COVID. With that release, Episode 3 discusses more of the data on how kids in the 12-17 age range compare to others. This is the same data that was used during the EUA meeting for the recent Pfizer vaccine authorization. Below is a synopsis of this information incase you are more of a reader and not a listener.

This data can all be found on the CDC site for the authorization meeting and is by no means mine nor confidential in any way. 

This is also not a post meant to create FEAR. This is simply data and knowledge. I also needed something to link to every time I saw another Facebook post about how kids don’t get harmed from SARS-CoV-2.

I touched on the “why” for kids age 12-15 years old to get the vaccine in last week’s blog post. I did not dive very deep into the numbers, so I hope the data below is helpful.

Sadly, I still hear the theory that kids “don’t get sick” from COVID. I even had a radio interview recently about the vaccine and the interviewer asked, “So why are we vaccinating this age range? We know kids don’t get very sick from this, so is it just for transmission purposes?” I had to bite my tongue and calmly discuss that kids DO get sick.

Photo by ThisIsEngineering on

The Data

  • When adjusted for under reporting, there have been 22.2 million infections in ages 5-17 years old from COVID
    • Under reporting accounts for those patients that either do not go in when they are sick as well as accounting for the rate of asymptomatic infections. This calculation is also used when accounting for flu cases and other illnesses.
  • There have been over 1.5 million reported cases in the US with over 13000 hospitalizations to date (a higher rate than the H1N1 pandemic) within our pediatric population.
  • Early on, kids made up a smaller portion of the COVID burden on our country.
    • This was most likely due to early school closures, halting sports and activities, and other interventions.
  • Now the 12-17 year age range makes up about 9% of total cases, with all kids making up >22% of NEW COVID cases (last year they only accounted for 3% of new cases)
    • This number will only go up as more adults get vaccinated, activities open up, and mask laws become more relaxed.
Photo by Laura James on


The top risk factors (in order) that increase risk of hospitalization in kids with COVID include obesity, asthma, developmental delay, diabetes, immunosuppressed conditions, blood disorders, neurologic disorders, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, feeding tube dependence, and chronic metabolic disease.

  • Risk greatly increases with 2 or more conditions (i.e. kids who are tube fed also will have neurological or metabolic conditions, which all increase the risk for being hospitalized)
  • There is a RACIAL DISPARITY – We see a larger rate of hospitalized patients secondary to COVID within the pediatric population involving the Black or Hispanic population when compared to others.
  • In terms of deaths, 1.3% of all deaths from COVID in the US were in the 12-17 year age range (127)
  • COVID is now in the top 10 causes of death in kids in our country


Hyperinflammatory syndrome affecting multiple systems in the body

  • Median age is 9 years old, with 21% of cases in the 12-17 age range
  • 60-70% lead to an ICU stay
  • 1-2% die
  • RACIAL DISPARITY- 63% of cases reported in the Black or Hispanic population
  • Patients in the 13-20 year old age range had a higher odds ratio of both decreased cardiac function and ICU admission when compared to the 6-12 year old age group when diagnosed with MIS-C

Adolescents and Transmission

Studies related to kids being infected versus adults varies – some show similar infection rates while others show a lower risk for kids.

  • There is some evidence done by CDC contact tracing and testing showing the adolescent age range is more likely to become infected and spread COVID when compared to the younger age group.
  • Some studies (Goldstein E et al On the Effect of Age on the Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Households, Schools, and the Community; Larosa E et al Secondary Transmission of COVID-19 in Preschool and School Settings in Northern Italy After Their Reopening in September 2020) also show that transmission at school is low, but more commonly occurs within the high school age ranges when compared to elementary school settings. Thus, this older age group has a higher risk for spread.
  • In a study by Lessler J et al titled Household COVID-19 Risk and In-Person Schooling, they found that adults living in a household with a child who is at in-person school full-time had an increase in odds of contracting COVID-19 or symptoms when compared to families with kids doing fully remote-learning.


Based on this data presented at the EUA meeting, I hope you can see that yes, kids do indeed get sick from COVID and can transmit the disease. Is the burden as high as the adult population? No. Will we see this burden increase as more kids become infected? It is hard to say for sure. I hope not for all our children.

This is the “WHY” for this age group to get vaccinated. This is why I get frustrated hearing people say kids don’t get sick from SARS-CoV-2. Up to this date over 600,000 kids in the 12-15 age range have received the vaccine. That number will continue to climb. Hopefully we will continue to see a decrease in disease burden and spread among this population and others in the months to come.

Stay Healthy

Stay Safe

Imperfect Dad MD

Listen to the Podcast Episode

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