…unvaccinated children are the main concern
Amid the surging cases – and the caution by the Ministry of Health on the higher transmissibility rate for the infants, and children, the country registered about 74 one-year-old and 13 less than one-month-old infants contracting the virus, and altogether, there are about 500 children below the age of 12 contracting the virus, said a member of Technical Advisory Group (TAG).
All the children contracting the virus are doing well, some have recovered. “All the children in isolation are doing well. We haven’t had a child including infants and neonates with severe disease,” said a TAG member, and a microbiologist, Dr Tshokey. “Many have been discharged home after recovery,” added Dr Tshokey.
Despite no records of major issues in infants contracting the virus, Dr Tshokey cautions that people should not get the idea that the disease is not severe. And, with limited data, if more children get infected, there is a higher risk of seeing children with severe disease. “Another thing to worry is that our children below 11 years are not vaccinated, and they remain at risk of severe illness,” said Dr Tshokey.
Another worrying data is, Dr Tshokey cautions, the most current recommended COVID treatment in adults are not approved for children. Although the current infection may not cause severe diseases, Dr Tshokey says ‘we are still not sure of any severe consequences in the future’ because there has been increasing evidence that COVID survivors may be susceptible to future health issue including long covid.
At the moment, the Ministry of Health’s main concern are the unvaccinated children.
Children, including infants contract the virus mostly from the positive parents or other family members since they become primary contacts.
However, there are few neonates who contracted the virus after delivery by a positive mother. “We don’t separate neonates born to positive mothers because neonates benefit more from being with their mother than being separated from them considering the benefits of breastfeeding and motherly touch,” said Dr Tshokey.
There are no separate wards for infants contracting the virus affirms Dr Tshokey, but the respective isolation centres try their best to give preference to families with children and accommodate them in the available rooms, for the convenience of the family as well as other positive cases.
According to Dr Tshokey, there is no separate isolation protocol for infants. Once they are isolated, they are given extra attention and are monitored everyday by the respective district doctors and health workers and a team of regional and national paediatricians. They are usually isolated from their mothers.
Occasionally, both parents accompany them as the family request the hospital that the mother alone may be unable to take care of the children. “Considering that they are most likely to test positive for being primary contacts and due to omicron’s high infectivity, we allow them on a case-by-case basis, because the benefit of a family being together outweighed the risk of COVID,” says Dr Tshokey. “Of course, we have a separate paediatric clinical case management protocol especially for severe or critical disease,” adds Dr Tshokey.
As far as medical aids are concerned, there are no separate or special aids required for COVID positive children. There is no definite treatment for COVID in children as well as for adults. “Any critical cases will be managed in the ICUs and then the only difference is in the equipment and specific protocols,” said Dr Tshokey.
There are paediatric ventilators in all hospital isolation centres if any children need ICU management and any cases requiring critical care will be managed by child specialists.