News of an impending third wave of COVID19, which may hit us in a few months, is leaving many of us unnerved, more so as experts believe that it is going to impact children who were not adversely impacted so far. The Optimist News got in touch with two noted doctors to understand what steps we need to take in order to be better prepared for the third wave.
According to Dr. Sanjiv Kanaujia, a well known pediatrician based at Kolkata it is believed that in the first two waves the children who had the infection had mild and moderate symptoms which made them super-spreaders. “This analysis is doubtful. Whether the infection was spread by the children or whether the adults with comorbidities directly got it by getting exposed through inhalation or other means is debatable,” he opined.
Talking about the impact of the third wave on children, he said, “I think Children are active by nature and might get infected this time in large numbers. The adult population will get vaccinated up-to 50 to 70 percent in some months which would lead to herd immunity. However, the severity of the disease in them is debatable. If their immunity is compromised due to severe malnutrition, heart disease, cancer or other diseases, they might show more severe symptoms and the disease may take a serious turn in them. But I think among the normal population of children it is not going to create much worry.”
Speaking about the steps we need to take to ensure the safety of children, Dr. Kanaujia shared, “I think vaccination is the only preventive step. As pediatricians we are immunizing most children from influenza. We have been able to curtail influenza in many children because we vaccinate them from 6 months onwards. Similarly, if the vaccine is available for children I think it will be a great help in curtailing the disease to a great extent by creating herd immunity in them. Once the regulatory bodies give their approval to vaccinate children above 5 years or even less, I think it will be an effective tool to prevent the disease from spreading.”
“Since children are vulnerable, the process of them getting vaccinated and the recommendation from vaccine companies will take time because it is a tedious process of going through the trials. Only when all three phases of trial are completed, will we get the notification to use it,” he added.
For parents he emphasized on ensuring only the three fundamental steps – ‘Using masks, sanitizers, and social distancing’.
“In cities children are usually not allowed to move out of their home. However, in small towns and rural areas children get exposed to the virus easily as they go out a lot more with their peers. That makes them more vulnerable,” he concluded with concern.
Dr Sumanta Bhattacharya, another Kolkata based child specialist , feels we need to strategize and plan well in advance to tackle a large-scale health disaster like the Covid pandemic and when with children our approach should be even more systematic. “The private and government sector should work hand-in-hand to protect children from the third wave. For the curative or treatment part of it, more hospital beds should be set up for the kids with proper PICU and NICU set up. Safe homes need to be set up as well. Covid teams should be formed in hospitals to tackle such kinds of patients,” he notified.
Dr. Bhattacharya highlighted that prevention is more important than cure. “For the preventive part of it, adults, especially the parents, should get vaccinated as early as possible. Maintaining hand hygiene and other covid appropriate behavior needs to be ensured as well. Most children get infected due to transmission from adults who happen to be the primary carriers of the virus. So we must get rid of speculations and get vaccinated first. Parents should also avoid giving packaged food from outside to kids. To maintain the psychological wellbeing of the kids, video-calling their friends or relatives might help,” the doctor suggested.
Dr. Bhattacharya is of the view that vaccination should open up to the kids as well. “In my opinion the extreme age groups like more than 60 years and less than 10 years should get vaccinated first since they are vulnerable to every other chronic disease,” he said
Talking about the safety of the vaccines he shared, “There is no sufficient data to suggest whether vaccination for kids is safe. Some vaccine companies are undergoing trials. In AIIMS some infants were administered the doses. After the trials are done on a large number of kids, which I think will take another 5-6 months, vaccines for kids would be available in the market.”
As we unlock, let us not let our guards down. Let us abide by all Covid appropriate norms and get vaccinated at the earliest to keep our little ones safe.