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Children “extremely low risk” from COVID study finds

Published on 09/07/21 at 07:50am
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

The overall risk of children becoming severely ill or dying from COVID-19 is extremely low, scientists from University College London, and the Universities of York, Bristol, and Liverpool have confirmed in a study.

Data from the first 12 months of the pandemic has shown only 25 people under the age of 18 died from COVID-19, which puts the overall risk of death at around two in a million for children, researchers have estimated.

In the study, the mandatory National Child Mortality Database (NCMD) was linked to Public Health England (PHE) testing data to identify children and young people (CYP) who died with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test. A clinical review of all deaths from March 2020 to February 2021 was undertaken to differentiate between those who died of SARS-CoV-2 infection and those who died of an alternative cause but coincidentally tested positive.

Then, using linkage to national hospital admission data, demographic, and comorbidity details of CYP who died from COVID were compared to all other deaths.

The study showed that most of the young people who died from COVID had underlying health conditions, finding:

  • The majority 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

Separately, scientists also considered all children and young people in England who had an emergency hospital admission for COVID up to February 2021, they found:

  • Some 5,800 children were admitted with the virus, compared to about 367,600 admitted for other emergencies (excluding injuries)
  • About 250 required intensive care
  • There were 690 children admitted for a rare inflammatory condition linked to COVID, called paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS-TS)
  • Though the absolute risks were still small, children living with multiple conditions, those who were obese, and young people with heart and neurological illnesses were most at risk

Professor Russell Viner, lead investigator of the study, said: "I think from our data, and in my entirely personal opinion, it would be very reasonable to vaccinate a number of groups we have studied, who don't have a particularly high risk of death, but we do know that their risk of having severe illness and coming to intensive care, while still low, is higher than the general population."

Currently, those under the age of 18 are not routinely vaccinated for COVID, however, conclusions are now being considered by the UK's vaccine advisory group.

Kat Jenkins

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