Child mortality in England during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Arch Dis Child. 2021 Dec 6:archdischild-2021-323370. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2021-323370. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVES: To quantify the relative risk (RR) of childhood deaths across the whole of England during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with a similar period of 2019.

DESIGN: This work is based on data collected by the National Child Mortality Database (NCMD). Deaths from 1 April 2020 until 31 March 2021 (2020-2021) were compared with those from the same period of 2019-2020. RR and excess mortality were derived for deaths in 2020-2021 vs 2019-2020.

SETTING: All deaths reported to NCMD in England of children under 18 years of age, between April 2019 and March 2021.

PARTICIPANTS: 6490 deaths of children, under the age of 18 years, reported to the NCMD over the study period.

RESULTS: Children had similar demographics in the 2 years. There were 356 (198-514) fewer deaths in 2020-2021 than in 2019-2020 (RR 0.90 (0.85 to 0.94), p<0.001). Deaths from infection (RR 0.49 (0.38 to 0.64)) and from other underlying medical conditions (RR 0.75 (0.68 to 0.82)) were lower in 2020-2021 than 2019-2020, and weak evidence (RR 0.50 (0.23 to 1.07), p=0.074) that this was also true of deaths from substance abuse.

CONCLUSIONS: Childhood mortality in England during the first year of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was lower than expected, with over 300 fewer deaths than the preceding 12 months. The greatest reduction was in children less than 10 years old. It is important that we learn from this effect that potentially offers alternative ways to improve the outcome for the most vulnerable children in our society.

PMID:34872905 | DOI:10.1136/archdischild-2021-323370