While the country is reeling presumably under a second wave of COVID-19 infection, cases among children and adolescents still remain low. Experts believe that the inoculation process must cover the adults and those with co-morbidities before opening it for children as the infection among them is mild and mainly asymptomatic.
CNN-News18 spoke to Dr Shyam Kukreja, Senior Director and Head of The Department – Paediatric (Ped), Max Super Speciality Hospital, to throw light on the matter of Covid-19 vaccination of children.
1. A year into the outbreak, what is our understanding of how Covid affects children and teenagers?
Regarding Covid-19 and children we have seen one wave in Delhi already, now we are into the second wave. In our experience, we have seen that children tend to get infected but they are not severely affected. They do not get the serious disease. During the second wave, the Covid-19 effects on children are comparatively higher yet not serious. More symptomatic infections are observed.
The cause of concern is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MISC), which is observed in case of children that occurs after 2-6 weeks. Covid-19 caused mainly due to Immune system dysregulation. Luckily, the rate of MISC is rare that is 1 in 1,00,000, but we paediatricians are more aware and cautious about this.
2. What are the learnings from the past year, specifically on Covid-19 among children?
The children do get infected. They transmit the disease. In general, children are not severely affected. The major concern is the transmission to elders, who are at a higher risk. Children are usually asymptomatic.
3. There is a widely held belief that children and teens are not at risk. What do you have to say?
During this wave, we have seen more serious cases. Fever lasts for a longer period. Symptoms like fever, mild cough, tiredness, body ache, vomiting and diarrhoea (loose motion) are observed.
There is a concern for two groups of children. The first group is children below the age of 1 year and the second group is adolescence particularly, which is obese. Any child may get severely affected if they have co-morbidity (two different diseases at the same time). Even if the fever continues for 3-4 days do consult doctors again.
4. Some say it is mostly the children and the young that are getting infected in the new wave. Is it true? If yes, why?
Adults, as well as children both, are at risk of infections but in comparison to the last year, the rate of symptomatic to asymptomatic particularly in the case of children has increased due to which more cases are observed.
5. What are the most common symptoms among children and teens?
Most common symptoms are fever, sore throat, mild cough, tiredness (even 4 to 5 years old children complain about feeling tired, having low energy, are restless or lethargic and even fatigue), body ache, vomiting, diarrhoea (loose motion). In general children tends to start recovering after 3 days. If the symptoms last beyond 3 days without any improvements then those particular cases are of particular concern.
6. Are the new variants more threatening to kids?
Data indicates that it may be comparatively serious but in practice particularly in case of Delhi the observations only suggest that the infection is now more symptomatic. Is it more threatening? – We are yet to see. It is to be noted that we have to differentiate and be cautious for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MISC) which is the major cause of concern and is to be treated with caution. Children tend to have shocks, heart involvement or heart-related problems. Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MISC) occurs in rare cases and is observed 2-6 weeks after Covid infection.
7. Why have the vaccination programmes kept children out of the ambit so far?
The emphasis of vaccination programmes was for the age group 40-45 years and above as they generally have comorbidity and are affected very severely. This was the major area of focus because earlier children were asymptomatic and the infections observed in children was mild in general.
8. When are vaccines for children expected?
Presently, vaccine trials for children are in progress and the data on these trials is awaited. Hopefully, the vaccine for children can be expected by early next year.