Remember COVID? A mutated version of the virus that not long ago dominated our lives is still killing more than 500 Americans per day on average — adding to a 1.1 million grim national total. Here in New York City, 13 people are dying on average each day, nothing to sneeze at for those who care about preventing suffering.
The bivalent vaccine booster is still the best way to head off severe disease and death. It doesn’t stop the pathogen’s spread, but it does make it far less likely that someone infected will have to be hospitalized or worse. Older New Yorkers, who are at the greatest risk by far, ought to be most focused on getting the shot.
But people of all ages benefit from the additional layer of protection. Even kids.
As we’ve said many times, children are far less likely to be seriously sickened by COVID than any other age group, a fact that was lost on those who pushed for too long to keep schools closed. But given the vast number of infections, children still too often get very sick. The vaccine is the simplest step to ensure that infection remains a relatively minor health event.
A new study puts the risk in perspective. Analyzing data on child mortality, the authors found that COVID-19 is “the top (first) leading cause of death among infectious and respiratory diseases.”
More to the point, COVID-19 caused substantially more deaths than other vaccine-preventable diseases did before shots stopped them in their tracks. In the one-year period from Aug. 1, 2021 to July 31, 2022, there were 821 U.S. COVID deaths among young people. Compare that to hepatitis A (three reported deaths in the year before its vaccine became widely available), rotavirus (20-60), rubella (17) and varicella (50).
Despite the relatively small threat in those cases, that level of child mortality triggered vaccines being widely mandated, including becoming a prerequisite for school attendance. Why should COVID, which is deadlier, be the exception?