A study published in JAMA Pediatrics on October 23 garnered media attention for its conclusion that both vaccinated and unvaccinated children who contracted COVID-19 were equally contagious. However, a closer look at the data reveals a significant difference in viral shedding between vaccinated and unvaccinated kids.
The study, led by Neeraj Sood, Ph.D., from the University of Southern California, involved 76 children between the ages of 7 and 18 who tested positive for COVID-19 between April and September 2022. Of these, 52 were vaccinated for COVID-19. Throat swabs were taken on the day of the positive test (day 0) and every two days thereafter up to day 10.
The researchers found that both vaccinated and unvaccinated children shed the virus for a median of three days. However, the study’s methodology raised some concerns. By using median values, the study downplayed the significance of the data, particularly for vaccinated subjects.
Specifically, the data showed that while all unvaccinated children were clear of the virus by day six, 19% of vaccinated children took double the time to be virus-free, with 6% remaining infectious on day 10 — three times longer than the reported median.
The study’s authors suggested that school policies requiring COVID-19 positive students to stay home for five days were appropriate, regardless of vaccination status. However, this conclusion was based on an analysis that obscured the disparities in viral shedding between vaccinated and unvaccinated children.
The media coverage of the study largely echoed the authors’ conclusions, with some outlets failing to highlight the crucial fact that all children who remained infectious after day five were vaccinated. This deliberate exclusion of relevant data can skew the presentation of results and is a common practice in questionable research.
In conclusion, while the study suggested that both vaccinated and unvaccinated children shed the virus for a similar duration, a closer examination of the data reveals significant differences, with vaccinated children shedding the virus for up to three times longer than their unvaccinated counterparts. This highlights the importance of critically evaluating research findings and considering the full scope of the data before drawing conclusions.