The risk of Covid-19 in children remains one of the major topics of contention. The statistics show that on 24 June there were 15,000 children in England recorded as absent with confirmed Covid-19 cases, compared with 9,000 the week before.
The summer months bring about new challenges to protect children and tracking cases. With school breaks and family holidays commencing, many parents are concerned about how to keep their children safe while considering their mental health.
There are various groups who aim to protect children at any cost and some who seem to roll the dice with vulnerable populations. The current mantra that “children are very rarely seriously affected by Covid” is one that treats this virus like the common cold.
Evidence clearly rejects these notions as A&E units in hospitals are reporting a record number of cases in just the last week with children coming in suffering with Covid symptoms.
According to Dr Richard Burridge, a consultant paediatrician and lead for the children’s A&E at Watford General Hospital, they were “seeing three times the number of children with fevers for early June than in 2020, which was lower because of Covid, and twice the number of children we saw in June 2019”, significantly higher than seen before.
While deaths from Covid in children are rare, more evidence is needed to understand the prevalence of long Covid in children. A study across seven countries estimated that fewer than two out of every million children died with Covid during the pandemic.
There are a lot of unknown factors as it relates to the impact the virus will have on the body of adults and children and it would be a mistake to overlook the potential risk.
The United States has already begun vaccinating children over the age of 12 and the data shows that children in the 12-17 age group have a higher rate of Covid incidence than those in the younger cohort.
Interestingly, data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US indicate that Covid-19 associated hospitalisation rates were lower in adolescents aged 12 to 17 compared with those in adults but exceeded those among children aged five to 11 between March 1, 2020, and April 24 this year.
While there are differences between the UK and US context, the data from the US should help to inform issues that the UK may be hesitant to act on. Continuing with the wait-and-see method leaves children open to potential long-term effects of Covid.
The question over whether we are going to vaccinate children or not should not be predicated on the idea that other countries are continuing to suffer from a lack of access to vaccines.
Instead, the decision should be made based on the need to ensure that every vulnerable group is properly protected from the virus. Vaccines should be made available to all countries as soon as possible to allow for easy access for inoculation, especially for the health care workers.