Deaths in Children and Young People in England following SARS-CoV-2 infection during the first pandemic year: a national study using NCMD data linked with NHS records
NCMD data contributed to the most comprehensive analyses of public health data assessing the risk of severe illness and death from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, in children and young people.
The studies led by researchers at the University of Bristol, University College London, University of York and the University of Liverpool found that this risk is extremely low, however catching Covid-19 increases the likelihood of serious illness in the most vulnerable young people, those with pre-existing medical conditions and severe disabilities, although these risks remain low overall.
The researchers used NCMD data to identify all children and young people who died following SARS-CoV-2 infection until the end of February 2021. 3105 children and young people (CYP) died from all causes during the first pandemic year in England. 61 of these deaths occurred in CYP who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. 25 CYP died of SARS-CoV-2 infection; 22 from acute infection and three from PIMS-TS. 99·995% of CYP with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test survived. The 25 CYP who died of SARS-CoV-2 equates to a mortality rate of 2/million for the 12,023,568 CYP living in England. CYP >10 years, of Asian and Black ethnic backgrounds, and with comorbidities were over-represented compared to other children.
The preliminary findings, published in five new pre-print studies, will be submitted to the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), to inform vaccine and shielding policy for the under-18s. The studies did not look at the impact of long Covid.
This works demonstrates the value of real time child mortality surveillance, collaboration and NHS data linkage.
You can read the preprint papers that use NCMD data in full here:
Lead author Dr Clare Smith (Research Fellow with the NCMD Programme) said: “We found that only 40% of children and young people who had a positive Covid-19 test at the time of death actually died from Covid-19, emphasising that the risks are lower than simple numbers might suggest. Children and young people with complex neurodisability were at the highest risk of death.”
Senior author on the studies, Professor Russell Viner (UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health), said: “These new studies show that the risks of severe illness or death from SARS-CoV-2 are extremely low in children and young people.
“Those young people at higher risk are those who are also at higher risk from any winter virus or other illness – that is, young people with multiple health conditions and complex disabilities. Covid-19 does however increase the risks for people in these groups to a higher degree than for illnesses such as influenza (seasonal flu).
“Our new findings are important as they will inform shielding guidance for young people as well as decisions about the vaccination of teenagers and children, not just in the UK but internationally.”