Purpose of review
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has exacerbated the longstanding racial/ethnic health disparities in the USA, with a disproportionately negative effect on children of color. This review summarizes recently published studies that describe the clinical epidemiology and racial/ethnic disparities associated with SARS-CoV-2 in children.
Children with SARS-CoV-2 infections manifest with a wide spectrum of disease. Most are either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic with fever, gastrointestinal, and/or upper respiratory disease. Some children can progress to develop severe lower respiratory disease or a hyper-inflammatory, Kawasaki-like syndrome leading to cardiovascular shock. Although SARS-CoV-2-related deaths in children are rare, more children died within the first nine months of the pandemic than have died during any influenza season over the last decade.
Black and Hispanic children represent less than 41% of the US population but account for three out of every four SARS-CoV-2-related hospitalizations and deaths in the USA. The drivers of these disparities in children are complex and likely a combination of societal, biological, and behavioral influences.
This pandemic brought to light longstanding health disparities in historically marginalized populations, and minority children have suffered tremendously. It provides an opportunity to understand how a virus hijacked deep-rooted inequities, address these inequities, and work to prevent this outcome in future pandemics/epidemics.