There is considerable policy, clinical and public interest about whether children should be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 and, if so, which children should be prioritised (particularly if vaccine resources are limited). To inform such deliberations, we sought to identify children and young people at highest risk of hospitalization from COVID-19.


We used the Early Pandemic Evaluation and Enhanced Surveillance of COVID-19 (EAVE II) platform to undertake a national incident cohort analysis to investigate the risk of hospitalization among 5-17 years old living in Scotland in risk groups defined by the living risk prediction algorithm (QCOVID). A Cox proportional hazard model was used to derive hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the association between risk groups and COVID-19 hospital admission. Adjustments were made for age, sex, socioeconomic status, co-morbidity, and prior hospitalization.


Between March 1, 2020 and November 22, 2021, there were 146 183 (19.4% of all 752 867 children in Scotland) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections among 5-17 years old. Of those with confirmed infection, 973 (0.7%) were admitted to hospital with COVID-19. The rate of COVID-19 hospitalization was higher in those within each QCOVID risk group compared to those without the condition. Similar results were found in age stratified analyses (5-11 and 12-17 years old). Risk groups associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 hospital admission, included (adjusted HR, 95% CIs): sickle cell disease 14.35 (8.48-24.28), chronic kidney disease 11.34 (4.61-27.87), blood cancer 6.32 (3.24-12.35), rare pulmonary diseases 5.04 (2.58-9.86), type 2 diabetes 3.04 (1.34-6.92), epilepsy 2.54 (1.69-3.81), type 1 diabetes 2.48 (1.47-4.16), Down syndrome 2.45 (0.96-6.25), cerebral palsy 2.37 (1.26-4.47), severe mental illness 1.43 (0.63-3.24), fracture 1.41 (1.02-1.95), congenital heart disease 1.35 (0.82-2.23), asthma 1.28 (1.06-1.55), and learning disability (excluding Down syndrome) 1.08 (0.82-1.42), when compared to those without these conditions. Although our Cox models were adjusted for a number of potential confounders, residual confounding remains a possibility.


In this national study, we observed an increased risk of COVID-19 hospital admissions among school-aged children with specific underlying long-term health conditions compared with children without these conditions.


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Cite as

Shi, T., Pan, J., Moore, E., Katikireddi, S., Docherty, A., Fenton, L., McCowan, C., Agrawal, U., Kerr, S., Shah, S., Stock, S., Simpson, C., Robertson, C. & Sheikh, A. 2022, 'Risk of COVID-19 hospitalizations among school-aged children in Scotland: a national incident cohort study', Journal of Global Health, 12, article no: 05044. https://doi.org/10.7189/jogh.12.05044

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Last updated: 02 December 2022
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