THE majority of children who have been treated for cancer or bone marrow transplants are safe to return to school, Dr Frank Alvaro has said.
The paediatric oncologist from John Hunter Children's Hospital said the Australian and New Zealand Children's Haematology/Oncology Group (ANZCHOG) had met to discuss the guidelines in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The paediatric oncology community around the world has been working together to share vital information regarding the numbers of children with cancer who have contracted COVID-19, and what their outcomes have been," Dr Alvaro said.
They found children were "far less likely" than adults to contract COVID-19, and the risk of severe disease in those who did was "very low". It should be safe for these children, and their siblings, to return to school.
But families should follow the advice of their oncologists.
"If your child's oncologist was happy for them to go to school prior to COVID-19, then they should be able to go to school now," Dr Alvaro said.
"The evidence suggests that most immunosuppressed children are not at significantly higher risk of severe COVID-19 than their age-matched peers.
"There is good evidence to suggest that children don't spread COVID-19 like adults. Child-to-child transmission is rare. It is very unusual for asymptomatic children to spread the disease, and exclusion from school indefinitely is not required when the evidence suggests that the risk of developing severe disease is actually low."
But he recommended all children undergoing therapy for cancer, and their family, have the flu vaccine.
"This is because we know that if you have a co-infection with another virus, then the risk of severe disease is actually higher," he said.
"We understand that parents with children being treated for cancer, or who are undergoing a bone marrow transplant, have very heightened anxieties with COVID-19 - and we also acknowledge we don't have all the answers. However our recommendations are based on what the world wide evidence available is at the moment.
"We need to remember that of the 200,000 deaths globally from COVID-19 it is estimated that 20 were children.
"The low rates of community transmission means the risk of contracting COVID-19 is currently low, and with the availability of testing and good contact tracing, we are well placed to isolate contained outbreaks as they occur."
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