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Fewer than 500 American children have died of COVID-19

Statistic: Number of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) deaths in the U.S. as of April 14, 2021, by age* | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

There are 258 confirmed deaths of COVID-19 for children. This is probably an underestimate, but I doubt it’s a two-fold underestimate. There are 74 million Americans who are in this age range. For comparison, 169 children under 15 years old died of asthma in 2016. In 2018 636 children age 12 and under died in car accidents.

The reason I’m posting this is I still hear fears about children dying now and then. The main issue with children is the spread of the disease. That’s why adults should vaccinate.

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30 thoughts on “Fewer than 500 American children have died of COVID-19

  1. One thing we didn’t touch on when we spoke is that in HK, although we have not had full lockdowns, all of the schools have been closed. Children are always a vector in transmission of viral diseases, and I think that is another contributing factor in why HK has managed to remain mostly at low level of known daily infections – the kids were all either locked up at home being schooled via Zoom or outdoors playing (much safer environment than being grouped together in a classroom all day where the air exchanges might well be substandard – masked, but that won’t stop airborne transmission, which would definitely be a thing in classrooms).

    But clearly parents weren’t happy and wanted the kids back in school getting face to face teaching (they refer to 2020 as their children’s “lost year” of learning), not surprisingly, so now they have re-opened all of the schools – all the more reason for wanting all of the adults to be vaccinated. But there was even pushback when the government was talking about all teachers being mandatorily vaccinated.

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  2. Another thing I didn’t get around to saying (too much to say) is that there has been a lot of resistance to being vaccinated in Mainland China, due to the perception that the risk of being infected is lower than imagined risk from new, hastily produced vaccines (plus some of the Chinese pharmaceutical companies have a bad history of bribery, selling vaccines past their use-by date and such like, so there is definitely a trust issue).

    But at least in the Mainland, vaccination of school teachers, lab technicians and others who have contact with school aged kids has been mandatory, often against their wishes.

    This vaccine hesitancy in China is weird – they are normally not anti-vaxxers at all. It is the speed with which the new vaccines have been produced, and the approvals to use them being only emergency approvals that has got them all spooked.

    Food safety in the Mainland is a big thing (ask anyone who lives there), and now those concerns have been transferred to vaccine safety, despite 100s of millions of Chinese having already been vaccinated with Chinese vaccines.

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  3. On May 11th, my wife and I will be 14 days out from our second shots, which means we will feel safe to do “date night” things and the like again. We are not overly concerned regarding our seven year old son getting infected, because we’ve looked at the statistics and the chances of a small child getting infected – and particularly seriously ill – are pretty small.

    However, we are still concerned regarding our 11-year-old daughter (who is adolescent due to precocious puberty). My general understanding is kids in the 10-17 range don’t have the resistance of smaller children and have risk profiles similar to those in their 20s. I know the FDA is reviewing moving vaccinations down to those as young as 12, but she does not turn 12 until August, meaning she’ll have to go through the summer with no protection.

    That said, we are having both our kids go back to school this week (in-person school twice a week is just starting here) and they will be attending outdoors summer camp. We’re just unsure how quickly we’ll be willing to go totally back to normal this summer. A lot probably rests on how widespread community transition is. While the press is sounding negative notes about the U.S. reaching true herd immunity, I am hopeful we have reached a critical mass vaccinated (ala Israel) with the national R0 now consistently below zero even if there will continue to be occasional flareups in antivax country.

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  4. What about rubella? Basically it isn’t dangerous for the children, but they are vaccinated to eradicate a disease which is dangerous for the adults.

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  5. Anecdotally, one of the children who died of COVID-19 (early in the U.S. outbreak), who went to high school at the same time as my children (but was in a younger grade), had multiple other severe health conditions.

    This said, death isn’t a complete measure of what is worth worrying about. For example, the fiancee of the man who was my personal assistant when the U.S. outbreak began, had a COVID-19 case (they both did) that seemed like a bad flu, but after they thought they’d recovered, she suffered sudden kidney failure and was hospitalized for three weeks before recovering, battered but functional. Long term disability or acute harm resulting in hospitalization short of death remain a concern with many more younger people than death.

    Also, a large pool of young people harboring the illness while not being vaccinated or taking careful protective measures could provide a reservoir from which it could re-emerge or variants could emerge.

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  6. @Dx – That applies to a lot of what were regarded as ‘childhood diseases’ for which there was no vaccination when I was a kid – more severe in adults than in children.

    People used to hold ‘pox parties’ and take their kids, to make sure they got infected while they were children (now only anti-vaxx loonies do that stuff). They didn’t know then that shingles is caused by a reactivation of the herpes zoster virus that remains inactive in the nerve cells after the chicken pox is resolved. Now they vaccinate kids against chicken pox, but that is one of the more recent vaccinations – it was not available when my daughter was a child, and she got chicken pox, but she was vaccinated for everything else.

    I see that the US is now considering lowering the age of vaccination against the coronavirus to 12. Good move.

    My general observation is that the USA’s initial response to the pandemic was disastrous, but that they (you) have got their act together and are now progressing really very well with vaccination. Hong Kong’s initial response was very good, but now we are stuck, with vaccinations progressing hopelessly slowly and with no hope of getting borders open and fully back in business unless we can fix that. And I don’t know how. We are not constrained by vaccination capacity, the problem is vaccine hesitancy and suspicion, and the sense that the risk of infection is lower than the perceived risk of a bad adverse reaction to either one of the two vaccines available (the mainstream and social media have played a big part in amping up the perceived risk from the vaccines).

    I am very concerned that is going to blow up in our faces – at least one of the more infectious variants is now finally loose in the community (and we don’t know how it got in), and we could very easily suddenly get a super-spreader event/big outbreak that is out of control, by which time it will be too late for people to rush to be vaccinated.

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  7. The federal government will be saving a tidy sum on SSA payouts, not to mention what they will be saving on Medicaid payouts for nursing home care.

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  8. @iffen

    The impact won’t last or have a huge impact.

    The average nursing home resident dies within one year of admission, and nursing home residents were among the very first vaccinated. These deaths were shifted may six to nine months earlier than they would have been, for about a year. The main subgroup of nursing home residents that live longer are those with dementia that are otherwise physically healthy, who drag up the average that would otherwise be shorter – so the main medium term impact may be less demand for specialty Alzheimer’s care. (Curiously, the healthiest nursing home residents tend to be the poor, working class and lower to middle middle class, because home healthcare doesn’t receive as much government funding as nursing home care, so affluent people usually go to nursing homes only when home health care is completely untenable, while less affluent people go sooner because they can’t afford to pay home health care aides or lose income caring for infirm elders themselves at home.)

    Likewise, those who are dying outside of nursing homes generally have a lower life expectancy than average for someone their age (which is already short due to advanced age) due to their health conditions that put them at greater risk.

    Social Security benefits in an amount close to the same amount payable to the primary beneficiary often become payable to a survivor (usually a surviving spouse) upon the death of a primary beneficiary, which buffers that fiscal impact.

    Also, what Social Security is saving on retirement payments to people without survivors are probably more than made up for by a new wave of people entitled to Social Security disability payments, Medicare and Medicaid expenditures, and SSI (a means-tested supplement for Social Security or Medicare beneficiaries), for people who haven’t died but are “long haulers” or suffered organ damage that they survived due to COVID. I would be surprised if new Social Security disability cases (that last decades), don’t exceed in number reduced Social Security retirement cases (which among COVID-19 victims would have been shorter), in the medium to long run.

    Most of the time, diseases with a disproportionate elderly impact hasten the deaths of those close to dying and in turn result in a deficit of deaths in the year or two after it sweeps through (this happened in the 1918 flu as well). I expect that we will see a brief deficit of deaths by late 2021 or sometimes in 2022 (unless highly contagious variants that the vaccines aren’t as effective against put us through the ringer again with a new wave), that will balance it up.

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  9. @ohwilleke

    So, you are saying that the release of the virus will fail to achieve one of its main objectives?

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  10. Bunch of responses to this post. I will start here from today’s WSJ:

    “Youth Pay a High Price for Covid Protection: Leaders’ greatest failure was not focusing on the elderly, who had lower costs and far greater benefits.” By Charles L. Hooper and David R. Henderson | https://www.wsj.com/articles/youth-pay-a-high-price-for-covid-protection-11620078943

    ***

    Some clear thinking based on data that were available last spring would have led to two insights. First, the benefits of protecting the old and vulnerable exceed the costs. Second, the costs of protecting the young and healthy exceed the benefits.

    ***

    We find that the benefits of protection are disproportionately higher for older people. Consider two extremes: the 18-year-old and the 85-year-old. If the 18-year-old dies, he loses 61.2 years of expected life. That’s a lot. But the probability of the 18-year-old dying, if infected, is tiny, about 0.004%. So the expected years of life lost are only 0.004% times 35% times 61.2 years, which is 0.0009 year. That’s only 7.5 hours. Everything this younger person has been through over the past year was to prevent, on average, the loss of 7.5 hours of his life.

    Now consider the 85-year-old. If he dies, he will lose 6.4 years of expected life. The probability of dying, if infected, is much higher for him, about 8%. So the expected years of life lost are 8% times 35% times 6.4 years, which is 0.179 year—65 days. The benefits of protection, measured in life expectancy, are 210 times as high for the older person.

    * * *

    In a 2020 study for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann estimate the loss to lifetime income for individual students to be 6% (assuming schools were closed or reduced for the equivalent of 67% of a year). Given U.S. median lifetime earnings of $1.7 million, that 6% translates into $102,000 per student. …

    Assuming that reduced lifetime earnings are the only costs and reduced life-expectancy losses are the only benefits, the 18-year-old faces a cost of protection of approximately $102,000 and a benefit of 31% of a day. Would you pay $102,000 to live an extra 7.5 hours? What 18-year-old values his time at $13,600 an hour? The costs for the 85-year-old are close to zero (remember, this person is probably retired) and the benefit is 65 days. …

    SARS-CoV-2 is highly discriminatory and views the old as easy targets. Had policy makers understood the enemy, they would have adopted different protocols for young and old. Politicians would have practiced focused protection, narrowing their efforts to the most vulnerable 11% of the population and freeing the remaining 89% of Americans from wasteful burdens.

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  11. By March 2020, the small effect of COVID-19 on children was already noted:

    “How Vulnerable Are Children to the New Coronavirus?: So far, kids seem to be surprisingly less at-risk to severe infection. But they could play a key role in spreading it, so experts say it’s crucial to follow precautions.” By Sumathi Reddy | March 10, 2020 | https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-vulnerable-are-children-to-the-new-coronavirus-11583858781

    Only 2% of the patients in a review of nearly 45,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases in China were children, and there were no reported deaths in children under 10, according to a study published in JAMA last month….

    About 8% of cases were in people in their 20s. Those 10 to 19 years old accounted for 1% of cases and those under 10 also accounted for only 1%. A separate study looking at the number of infants hospitalized for Covid-19 in China between Dec. 8 and Feb. 6 found only nine infected babies. …
    A World Health Organization report on China concluded that cases of Covid-19 in children were “relatively rare and mild.” Among cases in people under age 19, only 2.5% developed severe disease while 0.2% developed critical disease. …

    Trends in South Korea so far look similar. Among nearly 6,300 Covid-19 cases reported by the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention on March 8, there were no reported deaths in anyone under 30. Only 0.7% of infections were in children under 9 and 4.6% of cases were in those ages 10 to 19 years old.

    * * *

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  12. Of course, in that same article the “experts” spoke up:

    “With influenza, children are a major source of transmission in the community. … Children, even if they aren’t severely sick, could spread Covid-19 to more vulnerable populations. That is why closing school is an effective strategy to try to contain the virus, experts say.”

    By, summer of 2020, I think it was already becoming clear that schools were not a problem and could be reopened.

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  13. Based on the March 2020 article, I wrote the following about COVID-19:

    The history of infectious diseases was that they caused higher mortality among the very young, than among adults because the very young have naive immune systems and limited spare capacity in the systems that infectious diseases attack. This is why death rates for infant to 5 yro children where very much higher than for older cohorts before the 20th Century. Vaccines became an important tool in protecting small children because they allow us to train their immune systems to recognize and resist common virulent diseases in an orderly and measured way.

    Classically therefore, small children are very vulnerable to mortality from infectious diseases.

    But, not every infectious disease is equally virulent. Rhinoviruses that cause common colds seldom kill anyone. Ebola kills almost everyone it infects.

    Is CVID-19 more like rhinovirus or Ebola in its virulence?

    The low death rate for COVID-19 infections among the very young is one bit of evidence.

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  14. One point of comparison between COVID-19 and other pandemics we have experienced is the Polio pandemic of the early 1950s.

    The following from a Wikipedia article:

    “In the United States, the 1952 polio epidemic was the worst outbreak in the nation’s history, and is credited with heightening parents’ fears of the disease and focusing public awareness on the need for a vaccine. Of the 57,628 cases reported that year, 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis.”

    Remember that the population of the US back then (~155 million) was about half of what it is now. So double those numbers. Also, polio had almost no impact on older adults.

    I was 5 yro in 1952, so I do not remember the details, but I do remember the fear. I also remember lining up in front of the school in 1955 to be vaccinated.

    “in 1955, children’s vaccination campaigns were launched. In the U.S, following a mass immunization campaign promoted by the March of Dimes, the annual number of polio cases fell from 35,000 in 1953 to 5,600 by 1957. By 1961 only 161 cases were recorded in the United States.”

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  15. Another news item for perspective:

    “Social Security Sees Slowdown in Retiree Rolls Amid Covid Deaths” By Alexandre Tanzi | May 3, 2021

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-05-03/social-security-sees-slowdown-in-retiree-rolls-amid-covid-deaths

    The rate of growth in retired Americans who collect Social Security has slowed down sharply, and the drop may be due in part to the disproportionate number of deaths from Covid-19 among the elderly.

    The number of people who received retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration rose 900,000 to 46.4 million in March, the smallest year-over-year gain since April 2009.

    While the Office of the Chief Actuary at the government agency said it is still too early to assess the impact from Covid-19, the year-over-year change appears to reflect excess deaths. About 447,000 people who died from the virus were 65 or older, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or about 80% of total deaths.

    * * *

    U.S. life expectancy plunged by a full year in the first half of 2020, the biggest drop since World War II, to 77.8 years from 78.8 in 2019, according to provisional data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

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  16. A while ago I asked Davidski over at Eurogenes if any modern populations had EHG that didn’t come to them through the Western Steppe Herders, and he said no.
    But looking at the Mansi in the chart it shows a distinction between the Yamnaya and the EHG.

    Can someone enlighten me on this?

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  17. @Walter Sobchak: By, summer of 2020, I think it was already becoming clear that schools were not a problem and could be reopened.

    I think this is less clear cut. I recall news stories from Israel in particular but also from other countries that re-opened schools relatively quickly and had to close them again because of fresh outbreaks traced to them.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/israelis-fear-schools-reopened-too-soon-as-covid-19-cases-climb-11594760001

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/04/world/middleeast/coronavirus-israel-schools-reopen.html

    https://www.jpost.com/health-science/with-more-kids-sick-with-covid-can-israel-re-open-schools-656791

    According to a paywalled story at Ha’aretz, Israel re-opened schools about 3-4 weeks ago, but a heavy testing regime remains in place, and even this is possible only because of rapidly declining infection rates due to their vax program:

    If a student or teacher is confirmed to have COVID, all students and teachers in his grade at school will be tested, and only after all those tests come back negative will they be able to return to school. However, they will not have to go into isolation if they came in contact with the infected individual.

    S. Korea (though unclear if schools actually contributed to the spikes)

    ditto Hong Kong

    Many stories from last July and August about schools re-opening and then closing again soon after as cases rose in the community. It is very much a fog of war situation, so I don’t think it correct to say “It was clear by last summer…”

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  18. In May 1996 Madeleine Albright, who was then the U.S. ambassador to the UN, was asked by 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl, in reference to years of U.S.-led economic sanctions against Iraq:

    – We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

    To which Ambassador Albright responded:

    – I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.

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  19. @ marcel – WRT HK, this statement about the 2003 SARS epidemic is nonsense: “School was canceled then as well [schools were closed for six weeks], though technology has come a long way since the Zoom-free early 2000s: “During SARS we really did stop, because there wasn’t any IT.””

    Of course there was IT, and of course they didn’t stop. My daughter’s school, like most if not all, had a school website, and almost all pupils had access to a computer at home. My daughter already had her own laptop by age 9, and unfettered access to the Internet. Classes could not be conducted via Zoom, but teachers were giving the students assignments via the school website. For those few students who did not have access to a computer at home, the informal network of mothers [a great thing about HK] were arranging to print out the assignments and were delivering the printed assignments to their homes, while avoiding direct contact with them or their families.

    When the students returned to school, they all had to wear a new mask every day, and be checked for temperature before they left home. [Low grade fever was a reliable symptom of SARS infection, unlike Covid19.]

    @Milan – Be careful, mate – you are in danger of revealing some people to be hypocrites. You got a ‘like’ from me, though.

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  20. I know that at least five eyes monitor this. A hypocrite would be a compliment for the above case. Even the Great White is escaping hypocrites and going back down under. I don’t know if you are a Docker or Eagle, but thanks anyway.

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  21. I don’t follow it. I like the Dockers, but they are permanent under-achievers.

    I was a big fan of Nic Naitanui and believed that he would become the greatest Australian footballer of all time, eclipsing the immortal Polly Farmer (who I knew when I was a little kid and he was a big hero), but Nic’s anterior cruciate ligaments could not tolerate the repetitive stress he was subjecting them to, and his best years have been wasted with him on crutches watching from the sidelines. We will never know just how truly great he could have been.

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  22. Incidentally, Polly Farmer had polio as a child, hence his nickname – people thought he walked like a parrot because of the partial paralysis from polio.

    Should not be too obscure for American cousins – what I’m taking about:

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  23. Just a small refreshment from Superbowl (what a crap) which is still better than tobacco chewing “World” champions or anachronic cricket. You finally came out as an undercover Eagle, know Woosha personally.

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  24. We have unfinished business. I authorize you to make an inquiry in your Chinese environment and questionnaire them about the names of Asia or Europe. I will somehow provide a case or two of Croesus for correct answers. For those who know about Croesus himself – a double award.

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  25. Easy. Asia is 亞洲 and Europe is 歐洲.

    Roughly that corresponds to ya-continent and oh-continent. Doesn’t help much, does it?

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  26. John Massey,

    Have heard main reason for vaccine hesitancy/skepticism (from one contact living there) in Hong Kong was due to the Carrie Lam administration “shilling” the Sinovac vaccine back in January this year. The populace there is resoundingly anti-PRC, so they reacted accordingly and have distrusted any govt effort to promote vaccines ever since. I of course have never been to that city before, but does that sound plausible to you?

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  27. @Riordan – Your informant is full of it.

    HK residents have two choices, the other being BioNTech flown direct from Germany. There is slightly less hesitancy about that one. You could speculate that it is because it has much higher efficacy than the Sinovac vaccine or because it comes from a more trusted source. But there isn’t all that much difference in the uptake of the two choices. There is some, but it’s not huge. There is still spare capacity to vaccinate with BioNTech every day that is not being taken up.

    People are still lining up to get jabbed with Sinovac (and BioNTech) every day, it is just that it is happening far too slowly. Vaccination started in late February, and still only about 8% of the population have been fully vaccinated.

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  28. @Riordan – Sorry, I should give you the up to date figures. As of today, 15.6% of the population have had one vaccine dose and 9.2% have had two vaccine doses. The seven day moving average of doses administered is 35,211.

    HK has a population of 7.5 million. People under the age of 18 can’t have Sinovac, and under 16 can’t have BioNTech. People who have chronic illnesses are advised to consult a doctor before being vaccinated.

    Having initially confined vaccination to the elderly, chronically ill and people working in certain professions, due to the slow uptake, the government has now made vaccination available to everyone 16 years (or18 years) and older, which the public were calling for.

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  29. @marcel proust: June 2020 read the following:

    “America’s Smug Elite Is Harming Our Kids: The push to decouple skepticism from science turns schoolchildren into victims” by Jacob Hale Russell and
    Dennis Patterson April 19, 2021
    https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/science/articles/americas-ham-fisted-elite-harming-kids-wrecking-scientific-debate-dennis-patterson-jacob-hale-russell

    “By June 2020, the evidence was fairly clear on one unusual, but fortunate, aspect of COVID-19 when compared to many other respiratory diseases: It was orders of magnitude less dangerous to children. That’s why even the American Academy of Pediatrics, usually known for its caution, came out in favor of in-person learning in June. Thus, there were two main risks left to consider in reopening schools: the effect on teachers, and the effect on community spread. (On both, evidence was already mounting that schools were not especially risky.) On the flip side, there were risks to consider of children not being in school—their education, mental health, and so forth—which in many cases were drowned out by exaggerated, politically driven coverage of the direct risks of the virus for children.”

    And I am not even looking for this stuff. It is all over the place.

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