As Covid-19 cases surge, concerns to vaccinate children mount

While the first wave did not affect the children, the young ones are now caught in it
nupama Ramakrishnan
Last Updated : 05 April 2021, 09:36 IST
Last Updated : 05 April 2021, 09:36 IST
Last Updated : 05 April 2021, 09:36 IST
Last Updated : 05 April 2021, 09:36 IST

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With the country seeing Covid-19 infections among children as well, the curiosity among parents around their vaccination has become palpable.

“The trials in children should be completed and once we have a safe and effective vaccine, we should vaccinate the children,” says Dr Giridhara R Babu, Professor and Head, Lifecourse Epidemiology, Public Health Foundation of India.

Elucidating on whether vaccinating children can help in building herd immunity, Babu, who is also a member of Karnataka’s Covid 19 Technical Advisory Committee, says the virus will have adverse consequences in the long run. He says, “There are children who are undernourished in society and their immunity may be affected. Their getting protection will help in the protection of the community.”

He further points out that as far as India is concerned -- to find out whether the inactivated vaccines and administered vaccines are safe for children -- it has to be studied through trials. “A vaccine administered intranasally is being developed by Bharat Biotech. If approved after clinical trials, will be a game-changer. It is non-invasive," he informs.

BioNTech-Pfizer had said recently that their vaccine is 100 per cent effective on 12 to 15-year-olds. This has quite literally been a shot in the arm in the fight against Covid-19. “Currently, there are trials going on and we should have data in few weeks. In children, we should look at safety and efficacy but also dose efficiency,” opines Dr Srikanta J T, consultant, paediatric interventional pulmonology, Allegra and sleep medicine, at a Bengaluru hospital.

No respiratory etiquette

Dr Srikanta goes on to say that as far as the Covid-19 cases in children are concerned, there are two aspects to it. "Firstly, most people have either completely stopped or are only partially implementing respiratory etiquette or Covid-19-appropriate behaviour thinking that Covid-19 is over. This is leading to a significant intermingling of children and adults in common areas, marriages, and public places,” he says.

Secondly, he says that there is “a surge of cases in adolescents who have restarted their offline classes (which is again due to lack of Covid-19-appropriate behaviour in both school and public places)”.

As the Covid-19 cases keep rising, caution is still being thrown to the wind. Covid-19-appropriate behaviour seems to have been forgotten.

While the first wave did not affect the children, the young ones are now caught in it, unfortunately.

On whether Bengaluru is equipped to handle Covid-19 cases in children, Dr Srikanta says, “On an average, we are either seeing or getting calls from approximately two to three every day. As most cases are mild, we advise them for home quarantine and if required, for hospitalisation.”

“Since most of the cases are either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, they can be managed at home under supervision. Only a few children require hospitalisation for which there are adequate beds,” he said.

‘More contact tracing needed’

With India crossing the one-lakh mark in daily Covid-19 cases, Dr Giridhara elaborates the reasons for the spike in cases in the second wave. “One, the virus itself might be changing,” he says. “I’ve no doubt that part of the surge is because the virus is spreading more effectively. To understand that we need to do in-vitro tests and more contact tracing,” he says.

Secondly, he explains, that the waning immunity could be because of the reinfection of the asymptomatic illness, although it’s in a small percentage. “The third is the lack of Covid-19-appropriate behaviour. There are crowds gathering everywhere -- cinema theatres, schools and colleges, and offices providing the perfect environment for the virus to spread,” he adds.

Amidst the second wave that is heating up, what comes as a breath of fresh air is the Centre saying that vaccination against coronavirus will be offered on all days in April.

Pointing out that there is a higher risk of transmission in closed spaces, Dr Giridhara says, “When it comes to children, people should ensure outdoor engagement for their educational activities with physical distancing.”

It is now time to go back to the basics as Dr Srikanta says. “For all stakeholders, including the general public, it is time to go back to basics, i.e., test, trace, isolate and treat. Follow respiratory etiquette, maintain social distancing, get yourself vaccinated when your turn arrives and hope for the best,” he says.

Published 05 April 2021, 09:30 IST

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