COVID-19 seriously scared the world. We are now wearing masks, buying more hand sanitizer and generally living a more hygiene-forward lifestyle. But life goes on and children are returning to schools. How likely are they to contract the disease? A new study from UCL found that children and young people are around 40 % per cent less likely to be infected than adults when exposed to someone with the virus.
Scientists screened 13,962 studies, identifying 32 studies from 21 countries with useful data, to see whether children and young people are less likely to contract the disease. We know that they are more likely to suffer lighter symptoms, but what about the risk of getting infected in the first place? Scientists found that children under 12 to 14 years are significantly less likely to contract COVID-19 from someone with the virus. This also means that children are less likely to spread this disease. Although, scientists say that this study is just saying that children are less likely to get infected – they don’t know how they spread COVID-19 when they do get the disease.
This study involved data from 41,640 children and young people (under 20 years of age) and 268,945 adults. Scientists were able to detect that children under 12-14 years of age were facing 44% lower odds of catching SARS-CoV-2 virus compared with adults (those over 20). However, as you might have noticed, scientists couldn’t say the same about teenagers – 15-19 year old people. There is no data showing lower likelihood of contracting the disease, which makes scientists think that their odds of catching COVID-19 are as high as for adults.
Scientists say that more research in this area is urgently needed. Although it seems like children are playing only a minor role in the spread of COVID-19, data is currently lacking. On the other hand, scientists say that mitigation measures are absolutely crucial in situations like this. Russell Viner, lead author of the study, said: “There is now an evidence base on which to make decisions, and school closure should be undertaken with trepidation given the indirect harms that they incur. Pandemic mitigation measures that affect children’s wellbeing should only happen if evidence exists that they help because there is plenty of evidence that they do harm.”
Policy makers have a huge task on their hands. They are the ones closing and opening schools and it is absolutely crucial that they make the right decision. In order to do so they need more data, which is why more research is needed in this area. Everyone has to understand that COVID-19 pandemic is not going to disappear any time soon.