COVID-19 was the underlying cause of death for more than 940,000 people in the US, including over 1,300 deaths among children and young people aged 0–19 years.
Until now, it had been unclear how the burden of deaths from COVID-19 compared with other leading causes of death in this age group.
In a study from the University of Oxford, scientists found COVID-19 is a leading cause of death in children and young people in the US.
They used data from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention databases.
The team found 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.
COVID-19 was the underlying cause of 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 team says although COVID-19 amplifies the impacts of other diseases (such as pneumonia and influenza), this study focuses on deaths that were directly caused by COVID-19, rather than those which COVID-19 was a contributing 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 lower in children and young people.
However, because deaths among children and young people in the US are rare, the mortality burden of COVID-19 is best understood in the context of all other causes of death in this age-group.
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The study was conducted by Associate Professor Seth Flaxman et al and published in the journal JAMA Network Open.
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