Indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on childhood infection in England
Researchers in Oxford Population Health and the Oxford Vaccine Group have examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on hospital admission rates and associated mortality outcomes for childhood respiratory infections, severe invasive infections, and vaccine preventable disease in England.
Results based on data collected by NHS Digital from all NHS Hospital Trusts in England up to 30 June 2021 were published in The BMJ online on 12 January 2022 and showed that in the 12 months after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic there were very large and sustained reductions in rates of hospitalisation for a range of severe, respiratory and vaccine preventable childhood infections in England, including a 94% reduction in admissions for influenza, 82% reduction for bronchiolitis, 90% reduction for measles, and a 78% reduction for croup.
Numbers of deaths within 60 days after hospital admission also decreased. More recent data indicate that some respiratory infections subsequently increased to higher levels than usual after May 2021.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a range of behavioural changes and societal strategies (school closures, lockdowns and restricted travel) were used to reduce transmission of SARS CoV2. These changes have coincided with dramatic reductions in hospital admissions for common and severe childhood infections and corresponding reductions in the numbers of related deaths.
Ongoing clinical and microbiological surveillance is required to evaluate any epidemiological changes (e.g. substantial increase in rates, delayed peaks, disease in older infants) in infections that might have occurred because of a lack of population based immunity during the pandemic. The unusually high rates of some respiratory infections after May 2021 further underline this need. Continued monitoring of these infections is required as social restrictions evolve.
Updated results based on the latest data will be published on this webpage every month.