The overall risk of children becoming severely ill or dying from Covid is extremely low, a new analysis of Covid infection data confirms.
Scientists from University College London, and the Universities of York, Bristol and Liverpool say their studies of children are the most comprehensive yet anywhere in the world.
They checked England’s public health data and found most of the young people who had died of Covid-19 had underlying health conditions:
Around 15 had life-limiting or underlying conditions, including 13 living with complex neuro-disabilities
Six had no underlying conditions recorded in the last five years – though researchers caution some illnesses may have been missed
A further 36 children had a positive Covid test at the time of their death but died from other causes, the analysis suggests
Though the overall risks were still low, children and young people who died were more likely to be over the age of 10 and of Black and Asian ethnicity.
Researchers estimate that 25 deaths in a population of some 12 million children in England gives a broad, overall mortality rate of 2 per million children.
25 CYP died of SARS-CoV-2 during the first pandemic year in England, equivalent to an infection fatality rate of 5 per 100,000 and a mortality rate of 2 per million. Most had an underlying comorbidity, particularly neurodisability and life-limiting conditions. The CYP who died were mainly >10 years and of Asian and Black ethnicity, compared to other causes of the death, but their absolute risk of death was still extremely low.
Still, however, the battle for common sense over hysteria is far from won. Do we really think testing healthy children at an estimated cost of £144,564 per positive test is either “sensible” or “proportionate”? Do we really think that asking children who’ve already missed so much this year to miss further days isolating for a virus against which all vulnerable adults have been vaccinated is a drawback appropriately balanced against a benefit? And what do we think of this in the context of the looming discussion over offering the vaccine to children – at negligible risk from Covid – given the harm we should assume will ensue to a small minority of them?
Are children as likely as adults to acquire COVID-19?
Emerging evidence suggests that children may be less likely to acquire the disease. This is supported in countries that have undertaken widespread community testing, where lower case numbers in children than adults have been found.4 14 44 45 Between 16 January and 3 May 2020, 35,200 children in England were swabbed for SARS-CoV-2 and 1408 (4%) were positive. Children under 16 years old accounted for only 1.1% of positive cases.
Can children transmit the virus?
The importance of children in transmitting the virus is difficult to establish, particularly because of the number of asymptomatic cases, but there is some evidence that their role in transmitting the virus is limited…
According to professor Russell Viner, President of Royal College of Paediatrics and SAGE member:
- There’s very little evidence for the use of masks in schools.
- Children could potentially spread the virus more if they wear masks
One of the largest studies in the world on coronavirus in schools, carried out in 100 institutions in the UK, will confirm that “there is very little evidence that the virus is transmitted” there, according to a leading scientist.
Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and a member of the government advisory group Sage, said: “A new study that has been done in UK schools confirms there is very little evidence that the virus is transmitted in schools.
“This is the some of the largest data you will find on schools anywhere. Britain has done very well in terms of thinking of collecting data in schools.”