Children produce fewer ‘aerosol’ droplets that spread Covid than adults, study finds

German study comes as country considers giving vaccine to all children aged 12 and over

Adam Forrest
Thursday 27 May 2021 16:20 BST
<p>Children’s choir in Berlin rehearse with social distancing</p>

Children’s choir in Berlin rehearse with social distancing

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Children of primary school age pose less risk of spreading coronavirus than adults, new research on transmission suggests.

A German study found that children up to the age of ten produce fewer of the “aerosol” droplets that can transmit Covid-19 than adults.

Aerosols – the small droplets which are emitted when we breathe – are the second most common way for the coronavirus to spread, after the large droplets which come from coughing or sneezing.

“Children of primary age emit the same volume of particles when they speak as adults do when they breathe,” Prof Dirk Mürbe, the study’s leader told Germany’s DPA news agency.

Prof Mürbe claimed the findings should allow Germany’s public health officials to “assess the infection risk better” when considering rules for primary schools.

The study by Berlin Technical University and the Charite teaching hospital examined aerosol droplets emitted by children between the ages of eight and 10 from leading children’s choirs in Berlin.

“The low volume of aerosols and the availability of testing means we can assess the infection risk better and establish the right conditions both in the classroom and for extracurricular activities,” said Prof Mürbe.

Schools across Germany reopened in February, but many parts of the country have maintained smaller class sizes, and insist on social distancing when it comes to extracurricular activities like choir singing.

Germany plans to make enough Covid vaccine doses available to offer a first dose to all children aged 12 and over by the end of August, a draft health ministry document showed before a vaccination summit on Thursday.

After a sluggish start to its vaccination rollout, Germany has increased the pace of inoculations and imposed nationwide lockdown measures which are now being lifted.

With more than 40 per cent of the population of around 83 million having received at least one dose, attention has turned to the question of extending vaccinations to adolescents.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will later on Thursday discuss the question with the premiers of Germany’s 16 federal states. And the European Medicines Agency could endorse the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 on Friday.

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