India has now geared up to battle COVID in children and toddlers. The number of children contracting COVID-19 in India is much rarer but children now account for more than a fifth of new coronavirus cases in states that release data by age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s a statistic that may surprise many. Just one year ago, child COVID-19 cases made up only around 0.5 per cent of India’s total. Indeed, recent research suggests infections among kids are more common than public health authorities realized.
In the current COVID wave, doctors say many kids younger than 5 among patients. The most common COVID-19 symptoms observed in children include high fever, vomiting, diarrhea and headache. The ongoing COVID-19 surge is taking a toll on children’s health with several hospitals reporting a sharp rise in the number of children between the age of one and five landings up in hospitals. Unlike last year, the virus is affecting infants, with some as young as one-and-a-half months old getting admitted to hospital.
It’s also worth noting that for the vast majority of the pandemic, the age group with the highest case rates across the globe has been 18 to 24. This B.1.1.7 variant that’s becoming dominant in a lot of the country is more transmissible. It’s not clear if it’s mostly more infectious in kids. But at this point, it appears it’s just more transmissible in everyone, including kids.
Without any doubt, vaccination is playing a role in terms of the changing in the demographics of who’s getting infected. In many parts of the country, depending on how states track their data — 60 and older, 65 and older, 70 and older — very high scope of those populations in some places have been vaccinated.
As older portions of the population get vaccinated and we’re still seeing circulation, it just stands to reason that the kids who are not eligible for vaccination yet are going to make up a larger share of that pie. We should note that kids still represent a really small proportion of the worst-case outcomes.
Now, the part where that conversation about severity gets a little bit more complicated is yes, it is absolutely true that it’s less severe in kids than it is in adults, and particularly older adults. But it’s also not true to say that it’s completely benign in kids. Luckily, paediatric death is a fairly rare event. In kids, we have seen COVID infection, but it doesn’t seem to be as common as in adults.
There have been problems with data around this pandemic all along, including this particular situation. Standardized data about COVID-19 cases across the globe has been pretty hard to get. From early on, it seemed like the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies did not systematically regulate the different data that was out there.
As adults around the world scramble to get vaccinated against COVID-19, pharmaceutical companies are turning their attention toward one-quarter of the population that still has no available shots. Several pharmaceutical companies are doing clinical trials in adolescents or young children. Pfizer was already testing its vaccine in kids aged 12 to 15, and it just announced results showing that its vaccine works very well at preventing COVID in this age group.
Given that most kids are at low risk for complications from COVID, the need for a paediatric vaccine for the disease may not seem pressing. But scientists say the pandemic may never be fully controlled until kids are inoculated.
Traditionally, people think of children sharing viruses and then giving them to adults. And this seems like that dynamic is almost the inverse. The virus is spreading to the pediatric age group in the current surge. The number of children coming to the hospital with COVID-19 has increased five times as compared to last year.
Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi, even has a three-month-old infant admitted to the ICU with COVID-19 and pneumonia. While doctors of the hospital are getting swamped with young children and teenagers, the most affected age group is between one to five years in this category.
Delhi reported the highest single-day spike with 17,282 new cases of COVID-19 and 104 deaths. A total of 1, 08,534 tests have been conducted with 15.92 per cent of people testing positive for the infection. At least 50 per cent of the children surveyed during the fifth round of serological surveillance in Delhi were found to have antibodies against COVID-19, indicating that children do have equal exposure and an adequate number of antibodies levels when compared to adults.
According to the doctors, the surge in cases can be attributed to the laxity in the behaviour of the general public over the last few days. While the severity in younger children is not very high, experts feel that adults in the family should continue following COVID-appropriate behaviour to ensure no one else is infected in the family.