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Deaths in Children and Young People in England following SARS-CoV-2 infection during the first pandemic year: a national study using linked mandatory child death reporting data

By Clare Smith, David Odd, Rachel Harwood, Joseph Ward, Michael Linney, Matthew Clark, Dougal Hargreaves, Shamez Ladhani, Elizabeth S Draper, Peter J Davis, Simon E Kenny, Elizabeth Whittaker, Karen Luyt, Russell M Viner, Lorna K Fraser

Posted 08 Jul 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.07.21259779

Background Deaths in children and young people (CYP) following SARS-CoV-2 infection are rare. Quantifying the risk of mortality is challenging because of high relative prevalence of asymptomatic and non-specific disease manifestations. Therefore, it is important to differentiate between CYP who have died of SARS-CoV-2 and those who have died of an alternative disease process but coincidentally tested positive. Methods During the pandemic, the mandatory National Child Mortality Database (NCMD) was linked to Public Health England (PHE) testing data to identify CYP (<18 years) who died with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test. A clinical review of all deaths from March 2020 to February 2021 was undertaken to differentiate between those who died of SARS-CoV-2 infection and those who died of an alternative cause but coincidentally tested positive. Then, using linkage to national hospital admission data, demographic and comorbidity details of CYP who died of SARS-CoV-2 were compared to all other deaths. Absolute risk of death was estimated where denominator data were available. Findings 3105 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. Interpretation SARS-CoV-2 is very rarely fatal in CYP, even among those with underlying comorbidities. These findings are important to guide families, clinicians and policy makers about future shielding and vaccination.

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