Viewpoint: Only a tiny percentage of children face threat of severe coronavirus complications. That risk isn’t high enough to justify lockdowns

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Credit: Sam Panthaky/AFP

Horrific stories are emerging of children developing rashes, cardiac abnormalities and other inflammatory symptoms that are linked to the novel coronavirus. Parents and public health officials are understandably worried, but some perspective is in order given the virus’s apparent overall low risk to children.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics [May 11] found that only 48 children between March 14 and April 3 were admitted to 14 pediatric intensive care units in the U.S., and 83% had an underlying condition. The most common was “a long-term dependence on technological support (including tracheostomy) associated with developmental delay and/or genetic anomalies,” the authors note. The fatality rate for children in ICUs was 5% compared to 50% to 62% for adults.

Related article:  Viewpoint: Human challenge trials – volunteers intentionally infected with COVID-19 – are ‘uninformative, unnecessary and unethical’

Scientists are puzzling over these age disparities. One theory is that children have stronger “innate” immune response that allows them to quickly clear the virus without developing antibodies. Another is that the virus may not bind as easily to the ACE2 receptors in children’s nasal passages that are the cellular entry-way for invading the body.

All of this bears more study, and nobody wants to endanger children. But the risks to children are not enough to justify the continuing destruction of lockdowns.

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