How a Software Error Made Spain’s Child COVID-19 Mortality Rate Skyrocket



“Even though I didn’t know what the problem was, I knew it wasn’t the right data,” Soler realized once he got his hands on the Lancet paper. “Our data is not worse than other countries. I would say it is even better,” he says. Pediatricians across the nation contacted Spain’s main research institutes, as well as hospitals and regional governments. Eventually, they discovered that the national government somehow misreported the data. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, but Soler says the main issue is that patient deaths for those over 100 were recorded as children. He believes that the system couldn’t record three-digit numbers, and so instead registered them as one-digit. For example, a 102-year-old was registered as a 2-year-old in the system. Soler notes that not all centenarian deaths were misreported as children, but at least 47 were. This inflated the child mortality rate so much, Soler explains, because the number of children who had died was so small. Any tiny mistake causes a huge change in the data.

Author(s): ELENA DEBRÉ

Publication Date: 25 March 2021

Publication Site: Slate