Risk of children dying from COVID-19 'even lower than thought'
Alex Hunt


The extremely low risk of children dying of COVID-19 during the pandemic so far has been confirmed by research published by academics from a range of UK universities.

According to studies of all child deaths in the first year of the pandemic in England, the researchers found that there was a two in a million chance of having died from COVID-19.

They were able to look at the medical records of every child who died during the period, and then identified that 61 of them had ever had a positive test for COVID-19.

Of those, COVID-19 was responsible for death in 25 of the cases. Nineteen of the 25 were known to have underlying health conditions.



Europe's summer plans in limbo

Heat records in Moscow and Helsinki

Video: The world's biggest sandcastle


Elizabeth Whittaker, consultant in pediatric infectious diseases at Imperial College in London and one of the co-authors, told CGTN Europe: "The reassuring message is that actually the number of children who are susceptible to severe disease and death from COVID-19 is even lower than we've previously suggested."

She said that their studies identified that 5,800 children had been admitted to hospital who had tested positive for COVID-19 - although some may have been admitted for unrelated reasons.

"When we look at what's the risk, why do you end up in hospital, what makes you end up in intensive care? What we see again is that older adolescents, those who are from deprived communities and those who are obese are probably at greater risk, as well as those children with multiple comorbidities," she said.

"And I want to be really clear that the risk is really tiny. And so multiplying a small risk and making it bigger still leaves that as a very tiny risk. So even for those children at the greatest risk, it's still a very, very low risk indeed," she added.


Should children be vaccinated?

In the UK, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is currently considering whether to extend vaccinations to children as young as 12.

Given the very low levels of risks of death from COVID-19, does Whittaker support vaccinating children? 

"I think it's a really complicated decision. So does the vaccine work? Well we've got lovely supportive data to show that it works as well, if not better, in children and young people. So that's good. 

"Is it safe? It's been given to about three million children and young people in the U.S. and so we're getting really good data from those. There is a small signal that it might cause heart inflammation. And I think that's something we would like better information on," she added.

Although children might not be at great risk of death or severe illness from COVID-19, they have had their lives disrupted, and they are able to spread the disease - both things which could be minimized by vaccination.

"In terms of the bigger picture and the pandemic, it's having a huge impact on our children and young people, not because they get sick from the virus, but because of the mitigations and the impact on school and their emotional and social well-being," says Whittaker.

"And so there are those factors [which] need to be considered when that decision is made as well. 

"And in my opinion - and I don't represent anyone in this opinion - if we can be very confident about the safety of the vaccine, then it may be reasonable to consider vaccinating our adolescents if the vaccine supply is adequate."

The research has yet to be peer-reviewed, its brief did not include the impact of Long-COVID-19 on children and it studied the year up to February, since when the new Delta variant has become dominant.


Search Trends