COVID Is Way More Lethal to Kids Than the Flu

Madison Muller | Bloomberg | June 3, 2022

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COVID and kids: more deadly than the flu

In the US, nearly six times more kids and teens died from Covid in one year than did from the flu, according to a new analysis of pediatric mortality data.

Millions of kids get sick with the seasonal flu each year. But although it can be dangerous — especially for those who are unvaccinated — it’s much less lethal than Covid. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, childhood flu deaths during the regular season have ranged from 39 to 199 since 2004. Meanwhile, in 2021 alone, more than 600 children died from Covid-19, according to the analysis done by Jeremy Faust, a professor at Harvard University Medical School and physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Faust used death data from the CDC to compare Covid deaths during the pandemic to flu deaths over the last decade, to highlight the differences in severity between the viruses in kids.

Widespread vaccination efforts have helped lower the flu’s death toll, but children remain largely unvaccinated against Covid despite the shots’ safety. Less than a third of kids ages 5 to 11 have received two doses of the Covid vaccine, according to the CDC. And kids under 5 are still ineligible to get the shots, though Pfizer asked regulators on Wednesday to clear its vaccine for young children under an emergency use authorization.

Throughout the pandemic, some have argued that Covid poses little health risk to kids aside from a few days of sniffles — much like the flu. But Faust’s analysis shows just how wrong that is. Though kids sometimes experience less-severe symptoms than adults, Covid is still a very real risk. An estimated half a million kids have long Covid, a number that experts say is likely an undercount because the condition is tricky to diagnose.

“Of known respiratory viruses, only Covid-19 has ever killed more than 100 US children in a month in the modern era,” Faust said in the analysis. “It did so three times during the delta and omicron alone.”

Ashish Jha, the White House’s new Covid response coordinator, was quick to share Faust’s work on Twitter, agreeing that “COVID is a far greater threat to kids than flu is.” — Madison Muller

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