Immunosuppressed Children Not at Higher Risk for Severe COVID-19

High levels of anxiety among immunocompromised children and their guardians highlights the need to clearly define COVID-19 risk.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the University of Southampton has discovered that children with weakened immune systems do not seem to show a higher risk for developing a severe infection with COVID-19.

Results from the study were published in the journal BMJ Open.

"Whilst we cannot be certain of the prevalence of COVID-19 amongst the children who took part, because testing was only done when patients were admitted and these children were told to adhere to strict shielding measures, we can assume that any infections would have been mild cases since none of these high risk patients required hospital admissions,” Hans de Graaf, a lead author on the study said.

For the study, investigators conducted an observational study, which included 1,500 immunocompromised children, spanning a 16 week period during the first wave of the pandemic. The participants were considered immunocompromised if they needed to receive an annual influenza vaccination due to underlying conditions.

Either the parents, guardians or the children filled out a week questionnaire in which they reported any COVID-19 related symptoms, any COVID-19 test results and how the pandemic had impacted their life on a daily basis.

Findings from the study showed that half of the participants reported high levels of anxiety at the start of the study, which persisted even though there was a lack of severe symptoms.

The investigators believe that the study demonstrates screening early for COVID-19 will not be useful in cases where children may have frequent upper respiratory tract symptoms, as they are likely to be unrelated to COVID-19.

"This study was the first to observe the impact of the pandemic on children with compromised immune systems,” de Graaf said. “During the first wave of the pandemic, many may have been shielding so our results suggest that either the shielding measures were effective or that immunocompromised children are less affected by COVID-19 than adults, just like healthy children."