Report shows second year of COVID-19 most severe for Canadian children

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A recent report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) says the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic was particularly tough on Canada’s youngest children in terms of hospitalizations.

It found COVID-19 was the sixth most common reason newborns to 4-year-olds were hospitalized in 2021-22, with 2,315 patients in that age range in 2021-2022.

The numbers rose from 325 patients in 2020- 2021 — a 600 per cent increase.

“Some of those other respiratory infections, things like pneumonia, and viral causes have come back,” said Nicole Loreti from CIHI. “They’ve returned to the top 10 in the second year of the pandemic after a decline in the first year.”

She added “looking at reports and data like ours can help provide a better understanding and some insights into the reasons that Canadians are going to hospital.”


Some parents say the virus was under-recognized for children under age four, and the lack of available vaccines at the time didn’t help.

Sarah Elder-Chamanara says her children were one and three-years-old when they had COVID-19 symptoms last winter, and that protecting her children from the virus was stressful.

“It was a struggle, especially in the early days when testing wasn’t available,” she said.

She says during the early waves of the pandemic, protections for small children were neglected, especially as vaccines for children between six months and five-years-old were not available until August 2022.

“I really feel like our children specifically in the age group under five, but all children in general, were really let down the most during the pandemic,” said Elder-Chamanara.

A news release from CIHI sent Thursday says “the increase in hospitalizations for virus-related illnesses coincided with the easing of public health measures across the country.”


One pediatric infectious disease expert says COVID-19’s effect on children was often downplayed early in the pandemic.

“The disease was under-recognized and children, a lot of children didn’t even get tested. So we were under testing, and therefore under-recognizing this disease in kids,” said Dr. Cora Constantinescu, paediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Alberta Children’s Hospital.

She added, “if you have a child who has never had COVID-19, or whose COVID-19 infection is really, really remote, there is great value in getting the vaccine. Similarly, if you have a child who is more medically complex, we know that those kids can end up in hospital.”

There are currently 575 Albertans in hospital for COVID-19. Of those, 16 are in the intensive care unit, but the province is not releasing current data breaking down the age range for patients.

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