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EDITORIAL: Children have very little risk of COVID complications

The New York Times reports that King County in Washington — home to Seattle — has compiled some of the most comprehensive COVID statistics in the nation. The numbers reveal a host of information regarding the virus and children and the importance of vaccinations and boosters.

On the latter, data from Seattle confirm that the unvaccinated have a much higher chance than the vaccinated of ending up in a hospital bed thanks to COVID. For men and women 65 and older, those who have eschewed inoculation increased their risk of hospitalization from the virus more than nine-fold, with 3.86 unvaccinated residents per 100,000 hospitalized compared to just 4.1 out of a million for those who sat for the shots. The numbers were similar for adults under 65.

That’s significant protection for the inoculated and more evidence that the shots save lives.

As for kids, the Seattle numbers show that they are at extremely low risk of suffering complications from COVID-19. In fact, a vaccinated 65-year-old has a higher chance of ending up in the hospital with the respiratory ailment than an unvaccinated 16-year-old. “For children without a serious medical condition,” David Leonhardt of The New York Times wrote this week, “the danger of severe COVID is so low as to be difficult to quantify.”

Numbers from England back up this contention. Between Sept. 6 and Oct. 3, according to the Times, the hospitalization rate for vaccinated men or women between the ages of 70 and 79 was 22 per 100,000 people, compared with about 70 per 100,000 for the unvaccinated. Children, meanwhile, had a lower hospitalization rate than vaccinated people in their 40s.

“COVID is a threat to children. But it’s not an extraordinary threat,” Dr. Alasdair Munro, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at the University of Southampton, has written, Mr. Leonhardt reports. “It’s very ordinary. In general, the risks from being infected are similar to the other respiratory viruses you probably don’t think much about.”

This should be welcome news to parents and help inform decisions across the country, including Las Vegas, involving COVID and schools, particularly when many studies show that children aren’t big spreaders of the disease. But it also has huge ramifications for older Americans, who — even after being vaccinated — still have a much higher chance of suffering serious complications from the virus than their younger counterparts. The most severe breakthrough cases tend to cluster in the elderly population, noted David Wallace-Wells in New York magazine last month. He believes the public is still “hugely underestimating” the “age skew of the disease.”

Thus the importance of booster shots for seniors. They’re not foolproof — nothing is — but they’re the best means of lowering risk for our most vulnerable population.

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