Only six healthy children died of Covid during England’s first year of the pandemic, an analysis of NHS data has found.
Experts found a total of 25 youngsters died from the virus between March 2020 and February 2021. But the majority had underlying health conditions which made them vulnerable to the virus.
Of the six healthy children which died four were killed by the virus itself, while two succumbed to the Kawasaki-like disease called Paediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome Temporally (PIMS-TS).
Considering the 12million children in England, the researchers say this gives healthy children a one in 500,000 chance of dying from the virus.
This roughly the same as their odds of being admitted to intensive care if they catch the virus.
The latest data casts doubt on arguments to vaccinate children to protect them from the virus and of shutting schools, with the authors noting the dangers of depriving children from education and social activities could be greater than the virus itself.
This chart shows the number of children who have died over the course of the pandemic between March 2020 and February 2021
A total of 25 children were found to have died, with 19 of these having an underlying condition and six being healthy
Study author Professor Russell Viner, an expert in child and adolescent health from University College London, said the findings demonstrated the comparatively small risk Covid posed to children.
‘There were only 25 deaths in this age-group from Covid in the year, compared with over 100,000 amongst adults,’ he said.
‘Any death of a child is one too many — but we sadly must recognise there are over 3,000 deaths of children and young people in England in ordinary years.’
Professor Viner also said the majority of the children that did die from Covid were vulnerable to similar diseases that circulate during the year.
One in SIX children have a mental health problem and two-thirds say their lives were worse in lockdown
One in six children now have a mental health problem and rates of eating disorders have nearly doubled in young people since 2017, a major NHS study has warned.
It found the Covid pandemic may have exacerbated the mental health crisis in young people, with two-thirds of children saying their lives were worse in lockdown.
The report estimated 17.4 per cent of children aged six to 16 had a ‘probable’ mental disorder now, compared to 11.6 per cent, or one in nine, in 2017.
In older teens, the prevalence of mental health issues is believed to have risen from one in 10 to one in six, according to the survey of more than 3,600 youngsters.
Two-thirds of under-16s claimed lockdowns had made their lives worse, with social isolation and school closures to blame.
Meanwhile, the proportion of youngsters with eating problems has almost doubled since 2017 to 13 per cent.
Nearly one in six older teens were suspected of having an eating disorder, which could include anorexia and bulimia in extreme cases.
Professor Dame Til Wykes, a clinical psychologist at King’s College London, said the rises ‘may have been accelerated by the pandemic’.
She told MailOnline: ‘But it seems part of a longer term progression and recognition of mental health difficulties in the young.’
‘The great majority of those who died were children and young people we know are sadly at much higher risk of death due to other serious medical conditions,’ he said.
‘I emphasise that this doesn’t mean children with allergies or asthma but those very small groups who were vulnerable to winter viruses in any previous year.’
Of the 25 children that died the majority (72 per cent) were over 10, with 15 having a life-limiting condition and 16 having two or more comorbidities.
While 61 children in total were recorded as having died of Covid in the initial analysis of data, the researchers found the virus had only contributed to the death in 25.
The data also found children from Asian and Black ethnicities were over represented in the Covid deaths compared to other causes.
Asian ethnicity children made up 36 per cent of the Covid deaths and Black children made up 20 per cent, compared to 16 per cent and 8 per cent of total deaths.
In total, the study found Covid contributed to 0.8 per cent of total deaths of children in the timeframe of the study.
In comparison, 124 children died from suicide and there 268 deaths from trauma.
The study does have limitations, with the impact of the Delta variant which took hold in the UK in May this year and of schools reopening in March, not being included in the data.
But the authors, who published their findings in the journal Nature, say they expect their findings to still be relevant to the current pandemic situation.
The study adds weight to research showing Covid poses a vanishingly small threat to children, compared to adults.
According to the latest Government data 10-14-year-olds account for the majority of Covid cases in England, with 751,159 cases. But children are tested regularly because of virus-fighting schemes adopted in schools.
No10’s vaccine advisory panel, the JCVI, has said the risk of Covid death in a healthy child is around one in 2million.
Earlier this year it claimed immunising 12-15-year-olds would only provide ‘marginal’ benefit to their health, which was not enough to advise a mass rollout.
Children between 10-14-years-of-age account for largest number of Covid cases by age demographic since the start of the pandemic
In September the JCVI said it could not recommend Covid jabs for healthy 12 to 15-year-olds because the direct benefit to their health was only marginal. It also looked at the risk of health inflammation – known as myocarditis – in young people given the Pfizer vaccine, which was still very small but slightly more common after a second dose
But the experts recommended ministers sought the advice of Professor Chris Whitty and the chief medical officers in the devolved nations.
They came down in favour of expanding the inoculation drive after weighing up the wider benefits to children, claiming that hundreds of thousands of school absences could be prevented.
There have also been concerns children are being put at risk of heart inflammation, also called myocarditis, a rare complication of the Pfizer Covid vaccine.
While rare, only happening in up 12 to 34 million cases on the second dose of the jab the prospect was concerning considering children themselves gain little benefit from being vaccinated against Covid.