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A study published in the September 21 issue of American Association for the Advancement of Science has confirmed something many parents have already observed, if anecdotally: "Children have a low risk of COVID-19 and are disproportionately harmed by precautions."
There are two important distinctions, the first about children and COVID-19 exposure. "Unusually for a respiratory viral infection, children and adolescents are at much lower risk from symptomatic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) than any other age group. The near-global closure of schools in response to the pandemic reflected the reasonable expectation from previous respiratory virus outbreaks that children would be a key component of the transmission chain. However, emerging evidence suggests that this is most likely not the case."
While it appears children rarely show symptoms or die from COVID-19 exposure, the reason remains somewhat of a mystery. Research has shown that when some children with certain pre-existing conditions do get COVID-19, they become gravely ill and understanding why this happens is paramount. "Understanding the nature of immune responses in children is important given the rare, but potentially severe, multisystem inflammatory syndrome observed in more than 1000 children and adolescents in multiple countries during the first wave of COVID-19."
The second important distinction is about the effect of global "lockdowns" that have occurred in response to the pandemic. "[R]elative to their risk of contracting disease, children and adolescents have been disproportionately affected by lockdown measures, and advocates of child health need to ensure that children’s rights to health and social care, mental health support, and education are protected throughout subsequent pandemic waves."
Despite the fact that children rarely get COVID-19 and lockdown is also less than ideal, the assertion was that asymptomatic kids could pass it to members of their household in a never-ending loop. However, the authors of the study still maintain that closing schools may not have been the best course of action for students.
"Of greater concern is the possibility that viral shedding could be occurring from asymptomatic children and that, given schools' 'bridge' households, this could create a pool of ongoing viral circulation responsible for introductions of virus to the pupils’ homes and beyond [...] Given the near universal closing of schools in conjunction with other lockdown measures, it has been difficult to determine what benefit, if any, closing schools has over other interventions."
Much of the public suspected, or could at least observe, that children have been rarely affected by COVID-19 directly. Lockdown has adversely affected these kids' mental, emotional, and physical well being. "School closures and attendant loss of other protective systems for children (such as limited social care and health visiting) highlight the indirect, but very real, harms being disproportionately borne by children and teenagers as a result of measures to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic."
"There are many other areas of potential indirect harm to children, including an increase in home injuries (accidental and nonaccidental) when children have been less visible to social protection systems because of lockdowns."
The two authors of the study are experts based in the UK, Matthew D. Snape, of the Oxford Vaccine Group, Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine, Churchill Hospital, and Russell M. Viner, of the Great Ormond Street Institute for Child Health, University College London.