A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the USA’s public health protection agency, has revealed increased cases of hospitalisation among adolescents ages 12 to 17 after catching Covid-19 infections from potentially more dangerous virus variants. This should come as a warning to India as well, health experts here have said.
They have called for vaccinating teenagers here also to save them protection from the infection given that infectious variant Delta is prevalent in various States like Andhra Pradesh, a few Southern States and Maharashtra. There is also a need to create among this group as well as their parents about the importance of use of masks and adoption of social behaviour norms.
So far, the mass vaccination programme, which is underway, is applicable for those above 18 years in India.
The CDC report found that at least 31 per cent of the Covid-infected adolescents were admitted to ICU and 5 per cent required invasive mechanical ventilation. But none died.
In India, though in different settings, several children below the age of 18 years and newborns too have tested positive for Covid-19 in Maharashtra’s Akola and Amravati districts.
In Delhi also doctors have reported a surge in virus infection in this group. In Gujarat, nearly 70,000 children tested positive in one year.
In the past seven days, 10-12 per cent of Covid-19 cases were reported in those below the age of 18 years in Akola and Amravati. In past one week, Amravati district has recorded 6,826 Covid-19 cases, of which, 408 were reported among newborns and children aged below 18 years, according to various reports.
Akola saw 2,311 fresh cases, of which, 242 were children. Stating that the CDC report should be taken seriously, doctors say that the third wave is just a few months away and kids and teens are the most vulnerable group.
Dr Rahul Nagpal, Director, Pediatric and Neonatology at Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj said, “We are getting a lot more children now across all age groups. The youngest child who has Covid-19 is six weeks old. The number was insignificant last year but it has increased exponentially this time. The families of most of the younger ones are also positive.
“Even teenagers are getting infected, and, in that case, only one or two family members are affected,” he said as per a report.
In fact, during the fifth round of serological surveillance, at least 50 per cent of the children surveyed were found to have antibodies against the virus, suggesting that children do have equal exposure and an adequate number of antibodies levels when compared to adults.
Dr Jesal Sheth, Senior Consultant-Pediatrician, Fortis Hospital, Mulund added Covid-19 in children has remained a matter of great concern amongst parents, epidemiologists, and medical professionals ever since the pandemic hit us.
“While studies have shown that children are less susceptible to developing a severe infection from the virus, in the past few months we have seen a steady rise in Covid cases among kids. Moreover, there is still no guarantee whether children are entirely protected from the virus.
“Also, epidemiological studies show that the first wave severely impacted people above 60yrs, the second wave affected the younger generation and now that most adults are either infected or vaccinated, it is expected that children may be at a higher risk in the third wave. Hence, there is an urgent need to look at ways by which we can protect children or at least reduce the severity of illness,” he said.
Dr Nita Radhakrishnan, HOD, Department of Paediatric Haematology-Oncology, Super Specialty Paediatric Hospital and PG Teaching Institute (SSPHPGT), Noida, while pointing out that just three per cent people have been vaccinated so far, said there is a need to speed up the immunisation process. “There is also need to look into vaccines on the urgency basis that are safe for our teens from an illness that can be severe even among young people.”
She noted that the CDC study is disturbing looking at trends in hospitalization among adolescents with the disease. The study is based on data from the CDC’s covid-19-associated surveillance network, a system of laboratory-confirmed covid-19 hospitalizations in 99 counties across 14 states, covering about 10 percent of the US population.
On May 10, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds. It was authorized for those 16 and older in December last year.