…or never in my wildest nightmares?
This was the opening phrase in a Twitter post from Dr Lisa Iannattone,on 15 June. The whole Tweet read, “Never in my wildest dreams could I have predicted a future where a new virus would become the #1 infectious disease killer of children and that medical leadership would decide the vaccine for this virus is NOT important for kids, and NOT promote it”
Those of us at HART might rephrase this, “Never in my wildest NIGHTMARE could I have predicted a future where, for a virus with such a low impact on children, medical leadership would decide that a novel-technology vaccine with NO long-term safety data IS important for kids to take and WOULD promote it — and in some countries even mandate it — in a vain attempt to protect their grandparents”.
The tweet was linked to this news item from Oxford University dated 31st January 2023 so it seems to have taken Dr L several months to read it! “A new study led by researchers at the University of Oxford’s Department of Computer Science has found that, between 2021 and 2022, COVID-19 was a leading cause of death in children and young people in the United States, ranking eighth overall. The results demonstrate that pharmaceutical and public health interventions should continue to be applied to limit the spread of the coronavirus and protect against severe disease in this age group.”
The study itself used publicly available US data to look at deaths in children and young people (CYP) aged 0-19, where COVID-19 was ‘the underlying cause of death’ and to look at rankings of causes of death from 2019 onwards. The finding emphasised in the Tweet was that COVID-19 ranked “first in deaths caused by infectious or respiratory diseases.” The next sentence, unsurprisingly omitted from the Tweet, is however vital when putting this into context “COVID-19 deaths constituted 2% of all causes of death in this age group.”
A group looking at data in England from March 2020 to March 2021, found that deaths of children with a positive PCR test gave a similar 2% of all childhood deaths. However, unlike the more recent US study, this study did a thorough notes review for all the deaths and found that in less than half of the cases was COVID-19 either the underlying or a contributory cause of death, accounting for only 0.8% of total deaths for this age group. Fortunately, child deaths are rare and a Child Death Review system has been in place in England and Wales since 2008 to look for preventable causes, so the idea of looking at cases in detail is nothing new.
Like the importance of looking at absolute risk reduction rather than relative risk reduction for judging vaccine efficacy, it is vital to look at the absolute risk of a child dying from COVID-19. Whilst any child death is a tragedy for the family concerned, the risk of death from a respiratory virus is small compared with risks of say accidental death or suicide, which are also conditions the reduction of which should be the concern of Public Health departments. People, including children, dying of other conditions also find it harder to fight off viral infections. It is therefore inevitable that excessive testing will link viruses to dying children. However, the idea that these deaths could have been prevented has no basis in evidence.
It is noteworthy that the number of deaths in under 20s in the US, did not diminish with the arrival of the vaccines — one could even be forgiven for thinking they have increased.