A study, published in The Lancet on March 10, claimed that Spain had the “highest rate of deaths per 100?000 children.” The study reported that 54 coronavirus-related deaths in Spain were of minors, of which 28 were children 10 years old and below, with the rest being kids and teenagers between 10 and 19 years old.
The Lancet’s claim has been heavily disputed by Spanish medical associations, notably the Spanish Society of Pediatric Intensive Care and the Spanish Society of Pediatric Infectology. These two societies were involved in the cases of many of these patients. Pediatricians all over Spain clarified that only seven children aged 19 and under have died due to the coronavirus in the country, not 54.
“We are conducting a registry of pediatric patients treated in Spain with SARS-CoV-2 infection and its complications,” wrote the two societies in a joint statement. “To date, these registries have included up to seven deceased patients. Therefore, the figure included in the article seems to be wrong.” (Related: If you refuse coronavirus vaccine plans in Spain, you’ll be targeted and put on a government list.)
Mix up may have been due to mistakes made during the incorporation of the data
When questioned by Spanish media outlet NIUS Diario regarding the allegedly false data, Spain’s Ministry of Health (MISAN) acknowledged that some of the country’s regions may have “made mistakes when incorporating the data of minors.” But the ministry assured NIUS that the data was already being reviewed for correction.
The regions of Madrid and Catalonia have accounted for 49 of the 54 deceased minors in MISAN’s list. Fourteen of the alleged deaths came from Madrid, while 35 were from Catalonia.
Multiple pediatricians involved in the incident have come out to blame the “oversized” reported deaths of children on the fact that many regional governments were unable to provide regular updates to MISAN.
Another hypothesis for the massive error is that people over the age of 100 may have been falsely listed as infants. Instead of MISAN’s system listing people as 101, 102 or 103 years old, it would instead list them as one, two or three years old.
The main proponent of this theory is Dr. Pere Soler, a pediatrician in the Infectious Pathologies and Pediatric Immunodeficiencies unit of the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona.
Soler has acknowledged that this explanation “may seem strange,” but it should be noted that MISAN has neither denied nor acknowledged the possibility that this is how the errors came about.
Several doctors explained to NIUS Diario that, under normal circumstances, the date of birth of the deceased would be included in the death report. But since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, what is instead sent to MISAN and to regional ministries of health are just the ages of the deceased, including centenarians.
Spanish health authorities insist that according to data gathered up to Sept. 2020, the country only recorded around 213 coronavirus cases involving children. The officials that were interviewed by NIUS Diario did not mention how many of those 213 cases ended up dying.
Cases in children on the rise, but still no cause for alarm
Regardless of how many children in Spain have actually died due to COVID-19, medical associations have been sounding the alarm because the percentage of children affected by the virus has been increasing.
The Spanish Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery announced in a conference in Dec. 2020 that Spanish children and teenagers represented just one percent of coronavirus cases during the first wave. But during the second wave, that number rose to 12 percent.
The Society stated that this increase was not alarming, but that it was only due to more widespread testing and contact tracing. Similarly, Soler said that it is necessary to send a message to not alarm the Spanish population.
“Even if there were 29 deaths under 14 years of age, for example, the impact on children is still very low,” said Soler.
Learn more about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting other countries, and how governments may be misrepresenting the number of people being affected by the virus by reading the latest articles at Pandemic.news.