I am fed up with the repeated statements coming out of the Ministry of Health about keeping children inside so they won’t get COVID-19 or comments about “Children, severely, critically ill”.
Some intrepid reporter should ask the MoH “experts” how many children are “severely, critically ill” with COVID-19 and how many others are severely, critically ill with other diseases? How many children have died from COVID-19 in the period April 2020 to September 2021 and how many children have died from other illnesses?
304 children died in 2018 in T&T. This is the usual number of children who have annually died in T&T for the last 10 years or so. It used to be more when we had a higher birth rate. Over the 44 years I’ve been in practice I have never heard anyone from the Ministry of Health express concern, publicly or privately, over those deaths. That’s between 12 to 16,000 children who have died. Out of 1,536 total COVID deaths since the outbreak began, over a year and a half, four children, two with known comorbidities, die and all hell breaks loose? Why? Yes the death of almost anyone is a tragedy and more so the death of a child. But the chatter seems oddly disproportionate.
All of this chatter is creating and contributing to a climate of fear which in my opinion enables the government to maintain their unreasonable positions about taking temperatures (useless), about sanitising buildings (laughable), about the absurb efforts to prevent the population from healthy activity outside (20 times safer than inside) and the ridiculous decision to make an innocent public drive around with masks because the government refuses to deal with the PH problem. Instead of viable, effective programs of vaccination, we waste time and energy in useless discussions about these untenable positions or how one death in a child from COVID-19 is a tragedy while avoiding discussion about those three to four hundred children who die each year in T&T.
Since we are not getting up to date statistics on COVID or general mortality in children in T&T, I’ll try to put the risk of a child getting or transmitting or dying from the virus in context by referring to recent data from the USA for the period January through September 2021.
First of all it is clear that the risk in children has not changed with the Delta variant. It is low. The delta is both more transmissible and more widespread and does make more children sick but it has not made them sicker. It is not linked to worse disease. Less than 2 per cent of children known to be infected by the variant virus are hospitalised and less than 0.01 of those infected die. The comparative figure for all adults is that 10 percent of adults with COVID-19 are hospitalised and around 1 percent die. The older you are the worse the mortality. The mortality for the age group 75 to 84 is 12 per cent. It’s 25 per cent for people older than 85. The English have just reported that in the first year of COVID, over-90’s had 35,000 times the risk of dying of COVID-19 as young children.
That low mortality for children is still a public health problem. If the risk of death for children is around 0.01% and 1,000 children are infected you would expect no deaths. But if one million are infected you would expect 100 deaths.
According to some preliminary figures that we have, up to August 6, 2021, there had been 3,497 cases of COVID in children in TT with the expected three deaths. Unless the virus unexpectedly develops a variant that is really deadly for children, it will take more than a lifetime for us to reach that 100 figure.
What about other risks? As of August 31, 2021, of 3.7 million COVID cases among American children, there had been 4,700 MIS-C cases with 41 deaths. During the same period, I think there have been 55 cases in T&T with no deaths.
Long COVID is also a concern. The latest study from the UK found that less than 2 per cent of children with COVID experienced symptoms for at least eight weeks and symptom severity decreased over time. We have no information on what’s happening in T&T.
Both of these complications are therefore rare.
It’s wise to put all of these figures in context. Again, since we have no local information, we look at US figures.
In the USA, between January and September 2021, of an under-18 population of 73 million, 280 children died from COVID-19. Flu and pneumonia, heart disease, drowning, guns and motor vehicles were all deadlier to children during the same time period. Flu and pneumonia killed over 300 children. Heart disease, over 500. 750 children died from drowning. Over 1,200 from firearms and a whopping 1600 from motor vehicle accidents.
Most children in T&T and elsewhere in the world, are safe from COVID. It’s the other things, the traditional things that few even bother to think about, that are killing and mutilating our children’s bodies and minds.