Children are more likely to die from Covid than vaccination

26 November 2021
What was claimed

The Covid-19 vaccine might kill children who receive it.

Our verdict

This is not impossible, but the risk appears to be extremely small. We can find no evidence of a child dying as a result of a Covid-19 vaccine in the UK.

What was claimed

Covid-19 can’t kill children.

Our verdict

This is not true. In England alone, 25 children had died as a result of a Covid-19 infection up to the end of February 2021.

A meme being shared on Facebook says: “We are being told to line up our children to get something that might kill them, to protect them from something that can’t kill them.”

This appears to be a reference to Covid-19 vaccines. The author of one post says in the discussion below it: “Just watched a video of [former health secretary Matt] Hancock from a year ago, stating children won't need a vax cos they won't get convid [sic]. What a difference 12 months make.” Another post sharing the same meme comes from an account called “Vaccines Exposed”.

Assuming these posts are about the Covid vaccines, they are not true. Children who catch Covid face a very small risk of death—but not no risk at all. We can find no evidence at the time of writing of a child in the UK dying as a result of being given the Covid-19 vaccine.

A recent clinical review looked at all deaths in children under 18 following a positive Covid test in England, up to the end of February 2021. It found 25 deaths that were caused by the infection—six of them in children who appeared to have no underlying health conditions. We have written about this before.

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No evidence of a child dying from vaccination

The risk of a child (or an adult) dying as a result of a Covid vaccination is extremely low. So far, with just under three million doses given to under-18s in the UK, we can find no evidence of any case in which it caused the death of a child.

In its latest figures, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported a total of nine deaths among people of any age due to “COVID-19 vaccines causing adverse effects in therapeutic use” in England and Wales up to the end of October 2021. In Scotland, the total number of deaths reported up to 10 October is five, while one has been reported in Northern Ireland up to the end of September. This data doesn’t always show the ages of the people who died, but among those whose ages we do know, none were children.

For context, more than 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses were administered across the UK by the end of October 2021.

So far, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has received nearly 2,000 reports of possible adverse reactions following Covid vaccination among under-18s. (These are Yellow Card reports, which means they happened after vaccination, but not necessarily because of it.)

A very small number of people have developed myocarditis or pericarditis (inflammation of the heart), but these instances have typically been mild and extremely rare. There have so far been 25 reports of this condition among under-18s.  

In September, the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations assessed the evidence on vaccinating healthy children aged 12 to 15 and decided not to recommend it, concluding: “Overall, the committee is of the opinion that the benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms... but acknowledges that there is considerable uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the potential harms.”

However, a few days later a letter from the chief medical officers (CMOs) recommended the universal vaccination of people over the age of 12, taking note of the potential impact on education if children are not vaccinated. 

It said: “In recommending this to ministers, UK CMOs recognise that the overwhelming benefits of vaccination for adults, where risk-benefit is very strongly in favour of vaccination for almost all groups, are not as clear-cut for children and young people aged 12 to 15. Children, young people and their parents will need to understand potential benefits, potential side effects and the balance between them.”

The vaccine hasn’t been approved for under-12s in the UK

On 25 November 2021, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the Pfizer Covid vaccine (now known as Comirnaty) for use in children aged 5-11. In a statement, the EMA said: “The benefits of Comirnaty in children aged 5 to 11 outweigh the risks, particularly in those with conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19.” The same vaccine was already approved for 5-11-year-olds in the US.

At the time of writing, no Covid vaccine has been approved for use in children under 12 in the UK. Some reports in the media suggest that they may be approved and used by the spring.

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