Andhra Pradesh

Focus on children

The district administration has decided to leave nothing to chance regarding the possibility of a third wave of COVID-19 breaking out in the near future.

Though there is no authentic scientific data to confirm whether or not there would be a third wave, authorities are keeping their fingers crossed, presuming that a third wave is on its way and may erupt in the next two to three months, with indications that children and adolescents below the age of 18 are likely to be affected the most.

Any pandemic wave brought about by a virus depends on three factors — agent, host and environment.

The severity of the wave depends on the mutation of the agent or the virus, inherent response of the host or individual to ward off the virus threat, and how the environment helps in spreading the virus.

It is not known if there are any mutations of the virus that can bring about a third wave, but people’s behaviour can play a big part, say officials.

“After lifting of the lockdown, the environment factor is likely to come down and human behaviour is also likely to change. If COVID-appropriate behaviour is not followed, then the third wave is going to come in all likelihood,” said District COVID Special Officer and Principal of Andhra Medical College Prof. P.V. Sudhakar.

Talking about children being under focus, he said, “Though there are no scientific findings yet to confirm it, medical experience suggests two reasons. Primarily, schools are likely to reopen and it is difficult to make the children follow social distancing norms or enforce the wearing of masks and sanitising protocol. If infected, they would infect their parents and other children. Another major factor is that they are not vaccinated.”

Vaccines

Right now, the focus is on vaccinating people aged 45+, and 54% of the population in this segment has been covered in the district.

“In the USA, there have been a lot of studies on vaccinating children, and now they are inoculating children in the age group of 12 to 18. In India, there is no data which is why the government has not given its approval for vaccinating children. Even the nasal vaccination is still in the trial stage. Even if the vaccination programme is taken up at a good pace for people aged above 18, children will still be left out. This makes their segment vulnerable,” said Dr. Sudhakar.

District preparedness

It is estimated that the total caseload in the third wave can go up to 3,500 cases within a period of two months and of which 2,800 may require oxygenated beds and around 700 ICU beds, with around 55 admissions per day.

Collector V. Vinay Chand said that 620 paediatric beds will be made available, with 320 in the government sector covering 200 in KGH, 100 in the Family ward in the Government Hospital of Mental Care and 20 in Victoria General Hospital and the remaining 300 will be in the private sector, which includes 50 beds in each of the three teaching hospitals. In addition, efforts are on to strengthen the SNCUs (special newborn care units) and NBSUs (newborn stabilisation unit) for effective management of neonates, he said.

Mr. Vinay Chand added that the district is procuring special ventilators for neonates and children below five years of age.

Though there is no scientific data to concretely suggest the impact on children, we are not leaving any stone unturned and efforts are on to form a special task force by drawing paediatricians from private sources, said the Collector.

‘Resilience is key’

Experts from the medical field suggest that children can ward off the virus much more easily than adults, thanks to better immunity.

"Primarily, their ACE receptors in the lungs are not matured and this may not allow the virus to hold on. Children are immunised for other ailments such as polio and that may act as cross-immunity against COVID. Notably, neonates have immunity transferred from their mothers, which might protect the infants," said Dr. Sudhakar.


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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 6:15:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/focus-on-children/article34896735.ece

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