The CDC showcased false data about the risk of COVID-19 to toddlers when its expert vaccine advisers voted to recommend COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months old.
The agency featured a preprint study ranking causes of death in children earlier this month when it presented data to its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). It claimed to show that COVID-19 was a leading cause of death for children in the U.S. during the pandemic, but observers quickly pointed out major flaws in the data.
The paper ranks COVID-19 as a top six cause of death for age brackets from 0-19, including under one year old, 1-4 years old, 5-9 years old, 10-14 years old and 15-19 years old. It’s unclear why the authors include 18- and 19-year-olds in pediatric data.
However, one misleading aspect of the paper is that it ranks cumulative COVID-19 deaths alongside annual rates for other causes for death. For instance, in the 1-4 age group, the paper ranks cumulative COVID-19 deaths as the 5th leading cause of death, ahead of heart disease and influenza. But further down the list, it ranks annual COVID-19 deaths in eighth. For every single age group, the cumulative COVID-19 death rate is more than double the annualized death rate.
Another big issue with the CDC data presentation is the conflation of deaths caused directly by COVID-19 versus those for which COVID-19 was just a “contributing” factor. The authors state “we only consider COVID-19 as an underlying (and not contributing) cause of death,” but that is false.
The paper cites data from the National Center for Health Statistics, which tabulates COVID-19 deaths by including any death certificate on which COVID-19 is mentioned, not just cases where it was the primary reason for death. When the data is annualized and only includes deaths where the virus was the underlying cause, COVID-19 does not rank as a leading cause of death for young children. For kids under one year old, it ranks 9th, behind influenza and pneumonia, heart disease and homicide. Accidents are about 25 times as likely to kill an infant than COVID-19, according to the CDC data.