Preparing systematically for COVID-19 in kids, guidelines to be out soon: Centre

Express News Service
NEW DELHI: The Centre is set to issue guidelines for Covid-19 management in kids and also to prepare hospital infrastructure to support a large number of kids in case the infectious disease hits them with more intensity in the coming months, authorities announced on Tuesday.

The announcement comes amid concerns that children may be among the worst hit with Covid-19 if there is a fresh wave of the viral disease. But many experts, apart from government officials, have said this may not be a valid apprehension based on the scientific evidence so far.

VK Paul, member (health) Niti Aayog and chairman of the national Covid19 task force who is a paediatrician himself said in a press briefing on Tuesday that so far, only 2-3 % of the kids with Covid-19 need hospital care and the scientific evidence suggest that children are less susceptible for severe disease.

He however added that preparations will be made keeping 2.5 to 3 times that number in mind to tackle any future exigency.

“The paediatric population is generally asymptomatic. They often get infections but their symptoms are minimal or nil. If they do get Covid, the infection has not taken serious shape in children and the need to hospitalise is very less,” Paul said.

“But the virus may change its behaviour in the paediatric population and there may be changes in epidemiological dynamics. The impact of Covid-19 may increase in children…The data has shown that a low number of children are being admitted to hospitals. We are pushing preparedness by the day,” he added.

Paul also stressed that the government is working very systematically, comprehensively to address the problem of paediatric Covid disease for now as well as in the future.

“We will strengthen our facilities as required and do an audit of what is required and what might be required in a worst-case scenario,” he also said adding that in some children post Covid19 complications are seen 2-6 weeks after the actual infection and these complications may be totally different than the ones reported in adults. 

The debate that the children could be the worst affected in future waves of Covid19 pandemic started driven by the logic that they may be completely left out of the vaccination coverage against coronavirus.

Most experts however say that these concerns may be unfounded. “Serosurveys in many countries including India have shown that prevalence of infection was similar across all age groups so a large number of kids may have been affected already,” pointed out public health expert Chandrakant Lahariya.

He added that despite a high number of infections, not many kids reported severe disease or needed hospitalisation because of the fact that children due to a smaller number of ACE 2 receptors—used by coronavirus to enter the human cells—as compared to adults.

“Therefore, I do not see the reason why there should be undue anxieties about a larger number of falling sick due to Covid19 in the coming weeks or months,” he said.

Some doctors have also advocated that flu shots for kids may be a tool to prevent coronavirus infection but a senior paediatrician in AIIMS, Delhi indicated that it may not be suitable for India.

“The flu shots available in the private market are often prepared for influenza virus strains prevalent in the peak season in Europe and are often not very effective against preventing seasonal flu in India so I am not sure how such flu shots can help against SARS CoV 2 which is a completely new virus,” he said.

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