Government promises to update law to protect academic freedom
Jonas Ludvigsson undermined the political argument that schools couldn’t reopen in person with his research findings about COVID-19’s negligible threat to children and minor threat to teachers.
The professor of clinical epidemiology at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute faced such hostility for his findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, that he’s now given up on researching COVID-19, much less debating it.
Ludvigsson’s comments to the Swedish Medical Association were translated from Swedish by The British Medical Journal. He said that he hasn’t been able to sleep more than a few hours for a week as a result of the “angry messages through social media and email” criticizing his study and partly blaming him for Sweden’s contrarian COVID-19 strategy.
His letter to the editor, first published Jan. 6 and listed in the Feb. 18 issue of NEJM, went through several revisions and “formal external peer review,” including statistically, before it was published, Ludvigsson told the association.
The pediatrician’s research focused on children from age 1 to 16 during the first wave of COVID-19 last spring, tracking admissions to intensive care units March 1-June 30. It included those with “laboratory-verified or clinically verified Covid-19, including patients who were admitted for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children” because it’s “likely” related to COVID-19.
Just 15 children went to the ICU, for a rate of 0.77 per 100,000. Four had “an underlying chronic coexisting condition (cancer in 2, chronic kidney disease in 1, and hematologic disease in 1),” and none died. As for teachers, “fewer than” 10 in preschool and 20 in school went to the ICU during the same period. The schoolteacher ICU rate was about 19 in 100,000.
Relevant to school reopening debates across the globe, Ludvigsson notes that children weren’t wearing face masks. As with the rest of Swedish society, they were simply “encouraged” to practice social distancing.
Deaths from any cause in the 1-16 age group only slightly budged from the four-month period before the pandemic to the four-month period after – from 65 to 69.
Sweden is planning to boost academic freedom protections in law in part as a result of Ludvigsson’s experience,