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Will the third wave of Covid-19 put children at greater risk?

May 25, 2021
Shreyosi Chakraborty

Over 600 children were found Covid-19 positive in Rajasthan’s Dungarpur and Dausa districts in the last two days. More than 39,000 children below the age of 9 were found Covid -19 positive in the last two months in Bangalore. Around 22 children tested positive for Covid-19 at a juvenile home in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr. Do the figures hint at a disturbing trend? 

Dr Kannan Gireesh

Recent reports suggest that children below the age of 18 are increasingly being affected with the deadly virus. Alarming numbers are trickling in steadily from different states. Are we already headed towards a third wave that might see children being disproportionately affected? EducationWorld speaks with Dr. Kannan Gireesh, a Chennai-based psychiatrist and psychotherapist and founder-CEO, Live Life Education Pvt Ltd., for his views on the increasing number of Covid-19 cases being reported among children. 

Q: Since children were not getting affected earlier, there was an understanding that the virus affects people in the higher age group. Recent figures suggest something else. Is it an alarming situation already?

A: Yes, the situation is alarming. This is an eventuality. The first wave had affected people in the age bracket of 50-60 years with co-morbidities. The second wave affected people in the age group of 30-50 years. Around 20%-25% deaths were in this age group. Careful analysis and prediction points towards children and youth below the age of 18 getting impacted in larger numbers. There is no doubt about the fact that this virus can affect children. The nature of a virus is to continue living. And to continue doing so, it has to mutate. Hence, it will mutate and start spreading so that it may continue to live.

Q: Considering that not all hospitals and nursing homes have neonatal department for Covid-19 related issues, how can we overcome the current situation?

A: The first and primary precaution which everyone can practice is urging children to wear masks at home. Even if it is a surgical one, children should start wearing them. Parents who are going out or are frontline workers might be carriers of the virus. They share dinner tables and many personal belongings. People should follow Covid-appropriate behaviour even inside the house. In USA, children wore masks at home to prevent contraction. It is important that we prevent the transmission of the virus at the micro level. We have very less neonatal ICU beds in the country. Going by the figures, this is something to worry about. Children need different drugs than adults. Their anti-viral and emergency drugs should be noted and stocks should be made available. A committee should be formed to work on the same.

Q: Rajasthan’s Dungarpur and Dausa, UP’s Bulandshahr suggest huge numbers. How should the authorities deal with this?

A: Micromanagement of the specific areas on a war footing is one of the best options. Isolating the location from others for 14 days is the best way to prevent the spread. The specific location’s access to airports should also be stopped. Genome sequencing and taking down swab samples of the variant which is affecting children is also another way. It is important to note down if it is the same variant of the virus which is affecting children or is it a new one.

Q: Will the severity of the virus be more among children?

A: This is very difficult to say. The first wave did not see the requirement of oxygen. The second wave was more severe in that sense. Whether the next wave (if it is) will face some other challenges or the similar ones, is difficult to predict from the beginning because the virus is continuously mutating. Hence, it is better to prevent it at a ground level. Vaccination should be made accessible and expedited for children. America has already started rolling it out. Three clinical trials are required before an approval can be granted for vaccines for children below the age of 18.

Also Read:Pfizer says its Covid-19 vaccine is effective in kids aged 12-15

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