- If parents are vaccinated, low chance of children getting infected: Expert
- During the first wave, COVID attacked mainly the senior citizens
- The second wave is attacking a large number of young people
New Delhi: As the devastating second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the country, experts have raised apprehensions about another virulent wave that may hit the country by the end of this year and is more likely to affect children. NDTV spoke to Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairman, Narayana Health, to learn about how to prepare for the possible next wave and how to shield children from its attack. Dr Shetty has been recently appointed as the Chairman of the task force to prepare for the third wave by the Government of Karnataka.
According to Dr Shetty, the experience of the United States of America and European countries indicates that there is a strong possibility of the third wave in India and the virus is behaving almost similarly in these regions. He said,
We are most likely to face the third wave and there is a possibility that it will predominantly target the children. Mainly because most adults may already be infected or immunised. So, coronavirus has to find a new host and so the most vulnerable group in large number are the children.
He added that children, especially those below the age of 12 will be the worst affected. There are approximately 34.7 crore children in the country in the age group 0-14 years as of March 1 as projected by the National Commission on Population under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in its report ‘Population Projections For India And States 2011-2036’.
The first wave primarily attacked the senior citizens with comorbidities like kidney disorders, diabetes, cardiac issues among others. The second wave targeted the large of young breadwinners of the family. Now the next vulnerable group are children. The virus keeps changing its approach, said Dr Shetty.
Need For A Separate Treatment Protocol For Children
Dr Shetty highlighted that managing children with COVID-19 in ICU (intensive care unit) is completely different from handling adult patients. Adults can take care of themselves, provided they are given the required support like oxygen supply, he added. However, children cannot be left alone with the nurses and doctors, Dr Shetty highlighted, adding that there is a need for a separate treatment protocol for children. He said,
Unlike children in hospital for heart issue or some operation, children with COVID-19 are not sedated. They need to breathe. And when they are restless with low oxygen, they throw the mask. Now, continuously for 24 hours for many days, nobody can manage these children other than their parents. Children are not mini-adults and COVID care for children will be entirely different from the treatment given to the adults.
Immediate Measures To Help Protect Children
Dr Shetty has recommended that to prepare for the next wave, it is important to vaccinate parents of young children within the next three months. He said that vaccinating young parents may reduce the chances of children being infected. He added,
In case children get infected, a parent needs to stay with them in the hospital and you cannot have a man or a woman to be in a COVID ICU without being vaccinated. Vaccination takes time. You need to give the first dose, then the second dose and after almost two weeks of that you get the adequate immunity. We need to prepare the parents to get into the ICU if required.
He stressed on manufacturing medicines like paracetamol in bulk well ahead of the third wave to avoid the similar shortage of vital medicines that the country faced during the second wave. He said,
Shortage of medicines is going to happen. You just need half a million kids to fall sick and the medicines will disappear quickly from the market. It is because the stocks of medicines are made according to the current requirement and you can’t ramp up the production within few days.
Dr Shetty warned that more than anything else, the biggest problem in the coming days will be the shortage of nurses and doctors. He strongly recommended building an army of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to prepare for the third wave. He said,
In case of adults patients, just a few nurses taking care of more of them is manageable because adults can handle themselves. But if there are more children in a hospital along with their parents, they would constantly need good attention and so more nurses would be needed. Just 3-4 nurses with 20-25 patient cannot manage. So, we have to produce a few million doctors and nurses right away.
‘Save Our Children, Parents’ Plea To The Government
Expressing concerns about the projected third wave and its impact on children, many parents took to Twitter to urge the government and policymakers to take measures for ensuring the safety of children. Neha Srivastava, a mother, wrote on Twitter,
12 per cent of COVID-19 caseload amounts to children below 18. Vaccinate Indian Kids to save them.
12% of Covid19 case load amounts to children below 18. Vaccinate Indian Kids to save them #PfizerForIndianKids #SaveKidsFrom3rdWave@PMOIndia@drharshvardhan@HindustanTimes @IndianExpress @MoHFW_INDIA @pfizer @sonusood@cmohry @AlbertBourla
— neha srivastava (@nehasrivi) May 13, 2021
Stop the bug – Stop the flu – vaccinate the kids of INDIA.#SaveKidsFrom3rdWave#PfizerForIndianKids#AllowVaxForKidsNow@PMOIndia@drharshvardhan@HindustanTimes @IndianExpress@ians_india @pfizerforkids@MoHFW_INDIA @PMOIndia @timesofindia @CNNnews18 @sandeep_bamzai
— neha srivastava (@nehasrivi) May 13, 2021
Samita Kaur pointed out that children have been confined at homes for more than 400 days because of COVID-19. She said,
400 plus days of home confinement. Vaccinate Indian kids to help them cope with life.
#VaccineForIndianKids 400 plus days of home confinement. Vaccinate Indian kids to help them cope with life #VaccineForIndianKids#SaveKidsFrom3rdWave@PMOIndia@drharshvardhan@HindustanTimes @IndianExpress @MoHFW_INDIA @pfizerforkids @anandmahindra@CNNnews18@sonusood https://t.co/Q8DaFrPjYQ
— Samita Kaur (@samitakaur74) May 13, 2021
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.