COVID-19 claimed over 940,000 lives in the US, including more than 1,300 children and teenagers aged 0 to 19.Up until this point, it had been difficult to compare the burden of COVID-19 deaths with those from other major causes of death in this age group.
The data used for this investigation came from databases maintained by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention for the time period of 1 August 2021 to 31 July 2022.
- Among children and young people aged 0 – 19 years in the US, COVID-19 ranked eighth among all causes of death; fifth among all disease-related causes of death; and first in deaths caused by infectious or respiratory diseases.
- By age group, COVID-19 ranked seventh (infants), seventh (1–4 year olds), sixth (5–9 year olds), sixth (10–14 year olds), and fifth (15–19 year olds).
- COVID-19 was the underlying cause for 2% of deaths in children and young people (800 out of 43,000), with an overall death rate of 1.0 per 100,000 of the population aged 0–19. The leading cause of death (perinatal conditions) had an overall death rate of 12.7 per 100,000; COVID-19 ranked ahead of influenza and pneumonia, which together had a death rate of 0.6 per 100,000.
- Like many diseases, COVID-19 death rates followed a U-shaped pattern across this age-range. COVID-19 death rates were highest in infants aged less than one year (4.3 per 100,000), second highest in those aged 15–19 years (1.8 per 100,000), and lowest in children aged 5 –9 years (0.4 per 100,000).
- Overall, deaths in children and young people were higher during the Delta and Omicron waves compared to previous waves (pre-July 2021), likely reflecting the higher numbers infected during these periods. Nevertheless, in the pre-Delta period of the pandemic, COVID-19 still ranked as the ninth leading cause of death overall.
- The month with the highest number of COVID-19 related deaths in 0 – 19 year-olds was January 2022 at 160.
Impacts of other diseases
Although COVID-19 amplifies the impacts of other diseases, such as pneumonia and influenza, this study specifically focuses on deaths resulting directly from COVID-19, rather than deaths where COVID-19 contributed as a cause. Therefore, it is likely that these results understate the true burden of COVID-19 related deaths in this age-group.
Compared with other age-groups, the overall risk of death from COVID-19 was substantially lower in children and young people. For instance, between 1 August 2021 and 31 July 2022, the COVID-19 death rate among all ages in the US was 109 per 100,000.
However, because deaths among children and young people in the US are rare, it is best to understand the mortality burden of COVID-19 in the context of all other causes of death in this age-group.
According to the researchers, these results suggest that, with variants of Corona virus continuing to circulate, public health measures such as vaccinations, staying at home when sick, and ventilation still have an important role to play in limiting transmission of the virus and mitigating severe disease in children and young people.