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Mythbusting: children and COVID-19

At roughly a year and a half into the pandemic, you’d think some basic facts about virus would be settled by now. But I’m seeing some old myths about children and COVID-19 resurface. Namely, that children don’t get infected much, and don’t often transmit the virus.

Neither of those claims are true.

Children and adults appear similarly suscetiple to infection, and children are similarly likely to transmit the virus if they become infected.

I wrote an opinion piece about this last year, outlining some of the things we need to do to make schools safe. At a minimum, precautionary measures should include things like the use of face masks by students and staff, increased ventilation, and smaller class sizes so that physical distancing is possible. Extra hand hygiene is also a good idea.

A more detailed set of reccomendations can be found in this article, which was published in The Lancet a couple of months ago. The picture below gives a quick summary of the kinds of things we should be doing in schools.

Source: Gurdasani D, et al. School reopening without robust COVID-19 mitigation risks accelerating the pandemic. Lancet 2021; 397(10280): 1177-1178.

Now, you might well ask why you should trust my opinion over that of anyone else. My answer is that you shouldn’t rely on any one person, and I’d encourage you to read widely about the topic. My work has also receivied some scientific criticism, and you can read how I responded to that in this article.

Still, you’re probably wondering how there can be such conflicting opinion. It doesn’t help that some simple mistakes were made when some of the scientific data was collected and interpreted. I’ve written about this, too. This article explains how some of the problems came about, and how we can design better studies in future.

I’m hopeful that over the coming year, we will start to see safe and effective vaccines become available for children. That means we can eventually put this pandemic behind us. However, until vaccines are widely available, all of us – children and adults – will need to keep on doing the things that have helped keep us safe.