COVID-19 is a leading cause of death for children in the US, despite relatively low mortality rate
By Deidre McPhillips, CNN
COVID-19 has become the eighth most common cause of death among children in the United States, according to a study published Monday.
Children are significantly less likely to die from COVID-19 than any other age group — less than 1% of all deaths since the start of the pandemic have been among those younger than 18, according to federal data.
But it’s rare for children to die for any reason, the researchers wrote, so the burden of COVID-19 is best understood in the context of other pediatric deaths.
In 2019, the latest pre-pandemic year, the leading causes of death among children and young adults ages 0 to 19 included perinatal conditions, unintentional injuries, congenital malformations or deformations, assault, suicide, malignant neoplasms, diseases of the heart and influenza and pneumonia.
The researchers’ analysis of data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that there were 821 COVID-19 deaths in this age group during a 12-month period from August 2021 to July 2022. That death rate — about 1 for every 100,000 children ages 0 to 19 — ranks eighth compared with the 2019 data. It ranks fifth among adolescents ages 15 to 19.
COVID-19 deaths displace influenza and pneumonia, becoming the top cause of death caused by any infectious or respiratory disease. It caused “substantially” more deaths than any vaccine-preventable disease historically, the researchers wrote.
According to CDC data, children are less vaccinated than any other age group in the US. Less than 10% of eligible children have gotten their updated booster shot, and more than 90% of children under 5 are completely unvaccinated.
The findings of the new study, published in JAMA Network Open, may underestimate the mortality burden of COVID-19 because the analysis focuses on deaths where COVID-19 was an underlying cause of death but not those where it may have been a contributing factor, the researchers wrote. Also, other analyses of excess deaths suggest that COVID-19 deaths have been underreported.
As COVID-19 continues to spread in the US, the researchers say that intervention methods such as vaccination and ventilation will “continue to play an important role in limiting transmission of the virus and mitigating severe disease.”
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