Covid in children: 'No evidence' of increase in hospital numbers, say paediatricians

There is “no evidence” of an increase in children being admitted to hospital with Covid in Scotland, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has said.

It comes after Deputy First Minister John Swinney said numbers of children in hospital with the virus were “on the high side”, as research continues into whether new variants might have a greater effect on younger people.

His comments followed a statement from health secretary Humza Yousaf on Wednesday that ten children under the age of ten were admitted to hospital with Covid last week, around eight per cent of the total number of admissions.

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Asked how this compares to the number of children hospitalised previously during the pandemic, the Scottish Government said it was unable to give any more information due to patient confidentiality.

Ten children were hospitalised with Covid-19 last week, Humza Yousaf said.

Asked whether more children are being admitted to hospital, Mr Swinney said: “The current numbers are on the high side, certainly over the period of Covid we’ve not seen very many children hospitalised but we’re seeing a number just now, so we have to look at all of these factors to determine is there something in the new variants that are emerging that is making it more acutely challenging for children with a greater health impact, and these are the issues that we keep under constant review and upon which we take clinical advice.”

But the RCPCH later issued a statement to say it has seen “no evidence” of this.

Dr Steve Turner, Registrar at the RCPCH and consultant paediatrician at Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital, said: "As it stands there are very few children in hospital in Scotland and across the whole of the UK due to Covid.”

"We're not seeing any evidence of an increase in paediatric admissions with Covid. A very small number of admissions who test positive for Covid is what we'd expect.

"Our experience over the last 15 months is that many children who test positive have come into hospital for something else, like broken bones. At the moment the situation in the UK is stable. The number of children in hospital with Covid remains very low.”

He added: “Parents shouldn’t worry.”

In the wake of the health secretary’s comments, Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton lodged a parliamentary motion calling for the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation to accelerate a decision on approving vaccines for children.

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Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “I am in no way trying to influence the decision of the JCVI, nor am I asking them to cut corners, but I am concerned about the threat that the new Delta variant could pose to children. There is international data to support the benefits of some vaccines in children. If it’s is possible to safely vaccinate our children and young people I would like to see that done as quickly as possible.”

Asked how the current hospitalisations of children with Covid compare to previously during the pandemic, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The information the health secretary referenced was preliminary data provided to track the impact of Covid-19 across Scotland.

"We continue to work closely with Public Health Scotland to develop data for reporting in the weekly Covid-19 statistical publication.”

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