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CDC: Pfizer vaccine appears to protect kids against rare condition linked to COVID

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, is a serious but rare COVID-19-linked condition that involves inflammation of multiple organs.

WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report Friday showing Pfizer shots seem to protect older children who develop a serious but rare COVID-19-linked condition that involves inflammation of multiple organs.

Among 102 kids ages 12 to 18 who were hospitalized with the condition, none who had received two Pfizer shots at least 28 days earlier needed ventilators or other advanced life support. By contrast, 40% of unvaccinated children required such treatment.

The condition, multisystem inflammatory syndrome, causes symptoms that may include persistent fever, abdominal pain and rashes. Most children recover, but 55 deaths have been reported.

A separate CDC report found that children who had COVID-19 were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as youngsters who had not had the virus. Scientists are investigating why but say the virus seems to attack insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

The report comes as hospitalizations of U.S. children under 5 with COVID-19 soared in recent weeks to their highest level since the pandemic began, according to government data released Friday on the only age group not yet eligible for the vaccine. 

The worrisome trend in children too young to be vaccinated underscores the need for older kids and adults to get their shots to help protect those around them, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since mid-December, with the highly contagious omicron variant spreading furiously around the country, the hospitalization rate in these youngest kids has surged to more than 4 in 100,000 children, up from 2.5 per 100,000.

The rate among children ages 5 to 17 is about 1 per 100,000, according to the CDC data, which is drawn from over 250 hospitals in 14 states.

Overall, "pediatric hospitalizations are at their highest rate compared to any prior point in the pandemic,” Walensky said.

The overall hospitalization rate among children and teens under 18 is still lower than that of any other age group. And they account for less than 5% of average new daily hospital admissions, according to the CDC.

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