A brief overview of the current scientific evidence regarding covid-19, children and schools.
- Covid in children remains mostly asymptomatic (about 40% of all cases) or mild.
- Both the risk of infection and the risk of transmission are significantly lower in children, but not in adolescents, compared to adults. Infection risk increases linearly with age from 10 to 20 years.
- Both children and adults get infected mostly by adults and adolescents, not by children.
- Transmission in school settings is low, even without masks, especially if symptomatic children stay at home. Teachers are not at higher risk of infection than people in other occupations.
- In contrast to influenza, children and schools are not major ‘drivers’ of the coronavirus pandemic, and school closures have had a very limited impact on overall infections.
- Among symptomatic children, about 10% experience prolonged symptoms or fatigue lasting several weeks or months (i.e. post-acute covid or post-viral fatigue).
- Covid-related multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a serious but very rare condition, affecting only about 2 in 100,000 children (i.e. less than 0.01%).
- The cell receptors used by the novel coronavirus are regulated by sexual hormones and their expression is therefore age-dependent and significantly lower in children below 12.
- Studies and media reports claiming children and schools are major ‘drivers’ of the pandemic often don’t distinguish between school closures and other measures, or between children and adolescents, or between children infecting adults and adults infecting children.
- Nevertheless, cases of transmission at school and of children infecting their parents do occur regularly. Teachers and parents at risk should consider prophylactic treatment options.
- Many states and countries could drive down coronavirus infections without closing elementary schools, e.g. Florida, France, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland, among others.
- The social, psychological, educational and in some cases even physical impact of lockdowns and other restrictions is generally most severe in children and adolescents.