In the second year of the pandemic, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 skyrocketed by more than 600 per cent among children aged 0-4 compared to the previous year, according to new data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).
In 2020-2021, there were 325 hospitalizations of children in this cohort due to COVID-19.
But in 2021-2022, there were 2,315 hospitalizations of children aged 0-4 in Canada due to COVID-19, CIHI reports.
The data, released Thursday, shows COVID-19 is the sixth highest reason children of this age group were hospitalized.
Respiratory infections not related to COVID-19 also resurfaced as a cause of hospitalization for children aged 0-4 in 2021-2022. The previous year, non-COVID respiratory infections didn’t make the top 10 list of hospitalization causes for this age group at all. In 2021-2022, “other acute lower respiratory infections” were listed as the second highest reason for hospitalizations — pneumonia was number five and “acute upper respiratory infections” was number seven on the list.
It’s concerning to see hospitalizations among young children increasing so significantly, experts say.
“This uptick in hospitalizations for COVID-19, respiratory infections and other viral illnesses seen among the youngest Canadians in the second year of the pandemic is concerning both for the health of our youngest and most vulnerable, and for the additional strains placed on health systems and health care workers that were already stretched thin,” Juliana Wu, Director of Acute and Ambulatory Care Information Services at CIHI, said in a press release. “We are continuing to monitor hospital activity in this third year of the pandemic to understand the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians.”
The data also shows that in 2021-2022, COVID-19 was hospitalized far more Canadians across all age groups compared to 2020-2021.
In 2020-2021, COVID-19 was the seventh most common cause of hospitalizations for all Canadians, according to CIHI. However, in 2021-2022, the only thing is more likely to put you in the hospital than COVID-19 was giving birth.
COVID-19 was second on the top 10 list of reasons Canadians were hospitalized in 2021-2022, surpassing heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, substance use disorders, other medical care such as palliative care, COPD and bronchitis, neurocognitive disorders, mood (affective ) disorders and osteoarthritis of the knee, in that order.
The total number of inpatient hospitalizations in Canada due to COVID-19 in 2020-2021, according to CIHI, was 47,715. In 2021-2022, there were 77,344 inpatient hospitalizations due to the virus.
The CIHI report noted that for the purposes of this data, COVID-19 hospitalizations were identified as hospitals where COVID-19 was responsible for the bulk of the hospital stay. This number may differ from other data sets which include hospitalization data with all COVID-19 diagnoses, regardless of if they are primary or secondary.
Giving birth was the number one reason for a person to be hospitalized across all provinces and territories, but the new data shows COVID-19 was farther down the list in some regions.
The virus was number two on the list of hospitalization causes in Ontario, Alberta, and Manitoba, number three in Saskatchewan, Yukon, and BC, number four in the Northwest Territories and number five in Quebec in 2021-2022.
COVID-19 didn’t make the top ten list of causes of hospitalizations in 2021-2022 for Nunavut or any of the Atlantic provinces.
The data notes some of the variance in causes behind hospitalization between provinces is due to where services are provided, as some issues — such as mental health cases — are reported from acute care hospitals in some provinces and are reported from psychiatric institutions in others jurisdictions.
Among children aged 0-4, the top five causes of hospitalization in 2021-2022 were neonatal jaundice, acute lower respiratory infections, disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight, asthma and pneumonia.