Children and Coronavirus

By May 4, 2020 Commentary

In a post earlier this week I referenced a Wall Street Journal article about children being less susceptible to the coronavirus.  It took me a while but I finally tracked down the study, which is available here.  (DFTB Paper)  (It is funny what you run across, this is a website maintained by group of pediatricians for research on children’s health issues.)  The paper is a meta-review of research on coronavirus and children.  In the epidemiology section of the report, the authors clearly find that the evidence to date indicates that children are much less likely to be infected and to have much less serious disease when they are infected.  The authors also find that the research indicates that children are very unlikely to be significant transmission agents for infection of adults.

And in similar vein, here is a Chinese study on the transmission dynamics of the virus, the effective of school closures and lockdowns on those dynamics, and the  apparent relative “infectability” of children, adults and the elderly.  (Science Article)  The authors conducted contact surveys in two Chinese cities, including the epicenter of the epidemic, Wuhan.  As they describe their research, they were seeking to “disentangle how transmission is affected by age differences in the biology of COVID-19 infection and altered mixing patterns due to social distancing.”  Now, Chinese contact patterns may differ from US ones, particularly as there may be more generational residential mixing.  But some features are likely similar.  Please note for example, that school-age children have the largest number of contacts.  School closures and stay-at-home orders drastically reduced contacts in all age groups.  In their assessment of age-based susceptibility to infection, they used very large age bands, so the data isn’t particularly granular, but it is helpful.  Children aged 1 to 14 had only one-third the likelihood of being infected that adults aged 15 to 64 did, and those 65 and over had a 1.5 times greater likelihood of being infected compared to the 15-64 age group.  This is a very wide variation in susceptibility.

These papers support the perspective that there is wide variability in susceptibility of individuals to coronavirus infection and that the epidemic is therefore unlikely to take the drastic toll suggested by early modeling.  And they also indicate that there is no basis for closing schools and hindering the educational attainment of our children.

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