A GP claimed that Covid is the cause of at least 133 deaths in children, with many sharing this on Social Media. The blog was updated and confirmed as misleading following a Full Fact check of it. But when looking into the official numbers it would appeal the medic is misleading the public on child covid deaths. So what are the numbers?
Definition of a child?
The United Nations defines a child as every human being below the age of 18 years, while in a medical sense a paediatric ward covers children up to the age of 16. People aged 16 or over may consent to their own medical treatment like adults. The JCVI has also considered different age groups when determining the rollout of vaccines in the UK, treating those aged 16 to 17 differently to those at younger ages.
39 children aged 0 to 15 died due to Covid in England and Wales by end of 2021
Each month ONS publish the number of deaths in England and Wales where Covid-19 was the underlying cause, what most of us would understand as the primary cause of death. In addition, they include deaths where Covid-19 was not the primary cause, but mentioned on the death certificate, so a factor in the death.
Between March 2020 and December 2021 there were 39 deaths registered in children aged 0 to 15 with Covid as the cause of the death, with a further 10 where it was not the primary cause but a factor in the death. Extending the age group to 0 to 17, the numbers are 50 and 12, respectively.
|March 2020 to December 2021 – England and Wales (Source: ONS)
|Age 0 to 15
|Age 0 to 17
|Covid-19 underlying cause of death
|Covid-19 not underlying cause but mentioned on death certificate
5 additional deaths in January linked to Covid in 0-14 year olds
These numbers cover England and Wales only and I cannot find data by single year of age and the underlying cause for both Scotland and Northern Ireland. But we can compare the data ONS publish for the UK as a whole for those aged 0 to 14 with the same data for England and Wales, to assess how many further deaths there may be across the whole of the UK.
Each week ONS also publishes the number of deaths with Covid mentioned on the death certificate (including both the primary cause and a factor in the death). In 2022, to 21 January, there were 5 deaths among children aged 0 to 14. Data is not available yet for 0 to 15 or 0 to 17-year-olds.
There were 41 deaths registered in England and Wales aged 0 to 14 with Covid mentioned on the death certificate up to the end of 2021, with 3 in Scotland and 1 in Northern Ireland, so the other 2 countries would add around 10% to the total numbers. Applying that to the table above, we would get 43 deaths because of Covid in children aged 0 to 15 or 55 in those aged 0 to 17. If you add on the data for January it would be around 50 in children aged 0 to 15.
99.4% of deaths in children since the pandemic not due to Covid
A child’s death is heartbreaking for every parent, but children die every day. Between March 2020 and December 2021, where there were 39 deaths in children across England and Wales because of Covid, there were 6,123 deaths from all causes. Covid itself did not cause 99.4% of deaths. As mortality is highest for children among infants (those under 1), looking only at those aged 1 to 15, Covid was not the primary cause of 97.8% of deaths.
Covid deaths in children represent 0.03% of total deaths over the pandemic
When looking at Covid deaths for every year of age on a chart, it is difficult to see many deaths in children because Covid-19 is a virus that predominantly attacks and kills the elderly. Almost 9 in 10 of all deaths because of the virus are among those aged 65 and over. Children aged 0 to 15 account for just 0.03% of the total number of Covid deaths across England and Wales, so it is rare for a child to die because of Covid.
Child Covid deaths are rare, but for each family who loses a loved one, it is a heartbreaking tragedy. Medics are misrepresenting death statistics because of Covid in children, and this misinformation instills fear in parents. To inflate the numbers to make the situation seem worse, they are including adults aged 18 and 19. They also include those where there was a positive test for Covid-19 regardless of the cause of death. It is better and more professional to focus on the statistics from death certificates quoted in this blog.
The data I quote are death registrations and there can sometimes be a delay between a death occurring and registration. A Coroner is expected to open an inquest where there is reasonable suspicion that the deceased has died a violent or unnatural death, where the cause of death is unknown. It is unlikely deaths because of, or linked to Covid would form many coroner inquests.
The same people are talking of record numbers of children admitted to hospital, but we have seen record numbers of people in the UK testing positive for Covid since the Omicron wave. My recent blog explains the total number of children in hospital is lower than before the Omicron wave.
Update – The broadcaster and Professor Alice Roberts had quote tweeted statistics, on both points mentioned in this blog – hospitalisations and deaths of children with Covid. She has since deleted this tweet so I have removed the section from this blog referring to what was said.