– Dipta Joshi
Even as India struggles with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors across the country are warning of a third wave of the pandemic which is likely to impact a higher number of children. Preparing for the possibility, the Maharashtra government and the Brihanmumbai Mahanagar Palika (BMC), Mumbai’s municipal corporation are setting up paediatric COVID care wards in the city.
“Right now, the possibility of a third wave is just a scare and if we hope for the best, it might even end. However, since there is so much that we still don’t know about the virus, it is best to be prepared so that we can handle it better than how we handled the second wave,” says Dr. Tanu Singhal, infectious disease expert and consultant at Mumbai’s Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital.
While the first wave of the pandemic generally affected senior citizens or adults with comorbidities, no age group has been spared during the second wave. According to government data, almost 11.5 percent of the 5.6 million COVID cases reported (January 1- April 21, 2021) belonged to children and young adults under 20 years. In Maharashtra, which has been one of the worst affected states in the country, the government’s health department data has recorded as many as 1,34,470 children up to age 10 infected with the virus as against the 88,827 infected children (in the same age group) as on April 3. The data further reveals that while children up to age 10 accounted for 3.04 percent of those infected, 6.80 percent belonged to age group 11-20 and another 17.51 to age group 21-30.
“During the first wave, there were hardly any cases of children being affected of COVID-19 even if the adults in the home were infected. During the second wave though, we have seen entire families get infected. Fortunately, most children who tested positive reported mild illness and recovered soon enough though there have been the rare cases of what is called the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) or Kawasaki-like disease that results in inflamed blood vessels leading to other complications,” says Dr Philip John, paediatrician and consultant at several hospitals across Mumbai.
As hospitals across the state are reportedly consulting around 100 children per month even if they are actually admitting a fewer number, there is growing worry that this number will increase once the third wave hits the state around July-August. Not taking the threat lightly, the state government has already begun equipping itself to meet the challenge. According to media reports, the state’s chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray and tourism minister, Aditya Thackeray (also the guardian minister for the Mumbai suburban district) have held consultations and directed all district collectors, municipal commissioners, the BMC mayor and other top officials to begin work anticipating the next wave and its impact. Plans are afoot to increase the number of paediatric COVID care wards and maternity care wards etc. in and around the city.
The paediatric COVID care ward at Mumbai’s NESCO Jumbo COVID care centre will have 300 beds including 25 beds each for neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) services for infants infected by the virus. The BMC will also build four oxygen plants besides stocking up on the required medicines and kits etc.
With Canada having authorised the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged 12-15 today, doctors are hoping COVID-19 vaccines will soon be made available for children within the country too. “Right now even if children are getting affected with the virus, the severity is less as compared to its impact on adults so children are low on the priority list for vaccines right now. But with a majority of age groups being covered by vaccination, children will no doubt be the only ones at risk. We too need to have the vaccination’s safety net for our children at the earliest,” adds Dr Tanu Singhal.
Meanwhile in the wake of the number of overall cases in Maharashtra dipping – 57,640 cases reported on May 5 as against 68,631 cases reported on April 18, doctors are warning against considering the dip to be the end of the second wave. Doctors have continued to appeal for maintaining COVID appropriate behaviour since the first wave even recommending that children be monitored while they play outdoors and urged to maintain social distancing once the lockdown ends.News, States