Half of children in hospital in Scotland with Covid-19 hospitalised 'because of' the virus

Just over half of all children who were admitted to hospital with Covid-19 during the second wave of the virus in Scotland were hospitalised because of the disease, new data has shown.

The figures, disclosed to The Scotsman via Freedom of Information legislation, stem from Public Health Scotland’s own analysis of patients in hospital who were considered Covid-19 patients.

Over ten months between September 2020 and June this year, the average percentage of under-18s in hospital because of Covid-19 rather than simply with the disease sat at 52 per cent.

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This is defined as being an admission to hospital with Covid-19 being the “primary diagnostic position within the first episode of the stay”, with the figure rising to as high as 64 per cent in September and October, and as low as 33 per cent in February.

In June, health secretary Humza Yousaf was criticised for allegedly “scaremongering” parents around the risk posed by Covid-19 to children after he claimed ten children had been hospitalised “because of Covid” during a row about the reopening of soft-play areas in Scotland.

He later said he regretted if the statement had caused undue alarm among parents, and was slapped on the wrist by the statistics regulator for the use of “inaccurate” figures which were not available to the public.

Jackie Baillie, Labour’s health spokesperson, also called rising levels of Covid-19 hospitalisations among children as “incredibly worrying” in July.

The distinction between hospitalised ‘with’ and ‘because of’ Covid-19 is key to understanding the impact of the disease as vaccines continue to improve immunity among the general population.

Many hospitalisations ‘with’ Covid will be cases where individuals are admitted for other reasons, such as broken bones, but test positive for the virus on arrival or during their hospital stay.

The Public Health Scotland data confirms studies that show children are less likely than the rest of the population to be hospitalised ‘because of’ Covid-19, with Public Health Scotland stating between 66 and 78 per cent of overall Covid-19 hospitalisations between January and June this year were ‘because of’ Covid-19.

It is not known how many of the children hospitalised because of the virus had underlying conditions.

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Scottish Government figures state that 559 patients under 20 were considered Covid-19 admissions between March 2020 and June this year, with at least 415 of those admissions occurring between September 2020 and mid-June 2021.

However, these figures include 18 and 19-year-olds, while the hospitalisations data does not.

In total, more than 100,000 tests taken by those aged 14 and under and a further 50,000 among 15 to 19-year-olds have returned positive results since the beginning of the pandemic, data shows.

After those aged under 18, the next group with the lowest proportion of Covid-19 admissions with a primary diagnosis of Covid-19 is, on average, those aged 80 and over with an average of 61 per cent of Covid-19 admissions ‘because of’ the virus.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The total number of children and young people hospitalised in Scotland because of Covid-19 is small compared to other age groups and our NHS is continuing to deliver tailored care based on individual needs.

"We continue to monitor the numbers of patients hospitalised, including under-18s, who have tested positive for Covid-19.

“The three key actions we can all take are get vaccinated, lateral flow test twice a week, and follow all hygiene guidance. These are the ways to reduce cases further and protect ourselves and our loved ones.”

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