Experts say that newborns and children below 18 are at risk in Covid-19 third wave in India.

Why UP And Maharashtra Are Setting Up Child Covid Care Centres Ahead Of The Third Wave

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Tuesday, May 18, 2021 04:50 PM IST
Why UP And Maharashtra Are Setting Up Child Covid Care Centres Ahead Of The Third WaveRepresentative image from Twitter
  • A possible third wave of Covid-19 may affect children, as the inoculation drive for people below 18 years of age is yet to commence.

    U.P and Maharashtra governments have started to set up health infrastructure for children in preparation.

The Uttar Pradesh government wants to set up 100-bed paediatric ICUs in each district in the State, while Maharashtra is setting up Covid child centres, as well as a special task force as part of the preparations before a likely third wave of coronavirus hits India.

There is a specific reason why these two states are trying to establish healthcare infrastructure focusing on a specific age group.

The first and second wave primarily affected people who are above 45 years of age.

It is now being apprehended that children and youngsters below 18 will be at risk during the third coronavirus wave in India.

According to experts, during the third wave of Covid-19, children will be vulnerable as the inoculation drive for those below 18 years has not yet started.

According to the founder and director of Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, Dr Suchin Bajaj: “The children have not even been able to get the vaccine yet, so they will be at the highest risk. Some children are also getting infected with serious diseases in the second wave."

As per a report by India Today, Cardiologist Dr Raghavendra Parashar, Senior Consultant, Jaipur Golden Hospital, said: "Special ICU beds will have to be used for the treatment of children.”

“Paediatric ICU needs to be arranged as well. Everyone needs to brainstorm on these things,” he added.

Dr Santosh Kumar, Consultant Neonatologist and Paediatrician at Motherhood Hospitals, told The New Indian Express that breastfeeding is highly recommended for newborns to build natural immunity.

“It is also advisable for parents to strictly follow the vaccination schedule of their babies and not miss any doses, as this will shield the baby from infections and therefore a very crucial element in preventing the Covid infection," he added.

Children and Covid-19

In October 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that Covid-19 is much less frequent in children compared to adults.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a December 2020 release: “A recent systematic review estimated that 16 per cent of children with SARS-CoV-2 infection are asymptomatic, but evidence suggests that as many as half of pediatric infections may be asymptomatic.”

However, Harvard Health suggested that children can suffer from entirely different symptoms after contracting SARS-CoV-2.

It said that those that do get sick tend to experience milder symptoms such as low-grade fever, fatigue and cough.

While some children have had severe complications, which has been less common, some children with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk for severe illness.

Citing other studies, Harvard Health also noted that “infected children had as much, or more, coronavirus in their upper respiratory tracts as infected adults.”

During the second wave of coronavirus in India, many children (below 18) tested positive for Covid-19 in Maharashtra’s Akola and Amravati districts.

Amravati district has recorded 6,826 Covid-19 cases, out of which 408 were reported among newborns and children below 18, Akola saw 2,311 fresh cases, of which 242 were children.

Well-known cardiac surgeon, as well as chairman and founder of Narayana Health, Dr Devi Shetty, has chalked out a preparation plan for the third wave of the pandemic.

Currently, there are about 165 million children in the country who are less than 12 years old.

In a Times Of India blog, Dr Shetty said if 20 per cent of the children get infected, and 5 per cent of them require critical care, in such a situation, India needs 1.65 lakh paediatric ICU beds.

He pointed out that currently, that country has around 90,000 ICU beds for adults and less than 2,000 beds for kids.

While echoing the similar concern, Dr Ravi, a virologist from Nimhans Bengaluru, said in a statement: “We don’t have enough pediatric Covid care wards and intensive care units for children. This has to be urgently scaled up.”

Hence, it is understandable why the Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra governments are focusing on the establishments of Covid care units specifically for children.

As children stay with their families, experts advised the parents to get their vaccine doses before the third wave hit India.

It means that around 300 million young parents should get their jabs in the coming months.

However, Dr Shetty suggested that the government should reduce the price of the vaccines, which will allow a massive number of people to take the jab who are otherwise unable to afford it.

He further added that 70 per cent of the vaccines could be distributed in private hospitals and 30 per cent in public healthcare facilities, as private hospitals can provide services 24/7.

The United States recently expanded the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine to children as young as 12.

Meanwhile, just a few days ago, in India, Bharat Biotech has received permission to test its Covaxin in children between 2-18 age groups.

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