The director of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention is stepping up calls for teenagers to get vaccinated after new data from the agency shows a third of all teens hospitalized for Covid-19 this year required ICU care.

"I am deeply concerned by the numbers of hospitalized adolescents and saddened to see the number of adolescents who required treatment in intensive care units or mechanical ventilation," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said last week.

According to the CDC, the Covid-19 hospitalization rate among children ages 12-17 increased in April to 1.3 per 100,000 people from a lower rate in mid-March. Among 204 adolescents hospitalized for Covid-19 between January 1 and March 31, 31.4% were admitted to an ICU and about 5% required mechanical ventilation, the agency said.

Researchers said the increased hospitalization among adolescents in March and April might be related to several factors, including more transmissible and potentially more dangerous virus variants; larger numbers of youths returning to school; and relaxed rules for social distancing, mask-wearing, and other prevention behaviors.

According to the study, cumulative Covid-19 hospitalization rates for the adolescents from Oct. 1, 2020, through April 24, 2021, were 2.5 to three times higher than seasonal-influenza-associated hospitalization rates during three recent flu seasons.

“Flu very rarely causes long-term symptoms and organ damage — unlike Covid-19,” said Andrew Pavia, a professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at the University of Utah. “Adolescents have many reasons to get vaccinated as soon as possible, including their own health, the ability to help control Covid-19 among more vulnerable groups, and the ability to return to normal life.”

Walensky urged “parents, relatives and close friends to join me and talk with teens” about the importance of prevention strategies and to encourage vaccination.

"Much of this suffering can be prevented," Walensky said. “Vaccination is our way out of this pandemic. I continue to see promising signs in CDC data that we are nearing the end of this pandemic in this country; however, we all have to do our part and get vaccinated to cross the finish line.”

The CDC is continuing its recommendation that everyone age 12 and older receive a Covid-19 vaccine. People who are fully vaccinated can resume activities that they did before the pandemic. In May, the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was approved for use for children ages 12 and up.

Note: Information for this article was taken from previous articles from Reuters and The Washington Post, as well as from the CDC website.