Vaccinating Children Against Covid-19

Should we be protecting kids from coronavirus infections?

Gideon M-K; Health Nerd


Pictured: Lifesaving. Source: SELF Magazine

Covid-19 vaccines are amazing. They have turned what were enormous, horrific epidemics in country after country into manageable problems. Places like the US, UK, Israel, and others, which were until recently speeding headfirst off a cliff, are now celebrating as cases drop and people can finally let go of some of that pandemic anxiety that’s been going around.

Pictured: Joy, but in a British way. Source: Pexels

As the vaccine rollout continues, however, there are two big important questions remaining: who should our vaccines be going to, and should we vaccinate children against Covid-19? The first question concerns vaccine equity — should rich nations be donating large proportions of their vaccines to poorer countries to assist with the global fight against Covid-19 (answer: yes, obviously).

The second question is related to the first, but is incredibly contentious. While it’s trivially obvious that rich countries should shoulder more of the burden of global health than they do, the question of whether we should vaccinate children — either now or at all — against the coronavirus is hotly debated, especially now that the first ever coronavirus vaccine has been approved for use in children in the United States.

So, let’s look at the pros and cons of immunizing kids, and why it’s probably a good idea for younger people to be getting their shots as well.

Covid-19 Risk For Children

The first side of the coin in this careful balance is the risk to children from the virus itself. We’ve now looked into the death rates from Covid-19 by age in some depth, and we can say for sure that the risk for children is much, much lower than the risk for adults.

From my paper on the age-stratified risk of Covid-19 mortality. This is a log scale, so each line represents 10x increase in the risk of death — at age 10, roughly 1 in 60,000 people who are infected with Covid-19 die, compared to 1 in 130 at age 60.

That being said, the risk, while low, is definitely not zero. We expect that for every 1 million 12–15 year olds who catch Covid-19, somewhere between 20–30 of them will die