COVID-19 third wave could peak around October and children may be at a similar risk as adults, as per an expert committee constituted by the Home Affairs Ministry under the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM).

The expert committee has sought better medical preparedness for children while noting that pediatric facilities including staff, doctors and equipment like ventilators and ambulances are nowhere close to what may be required in case a large number of children become infected.

The committee’s report titled “Third Wave Preparedness: Children Vulnerability and Recovery” has been submitted to the Prime Ministers’ Office. The report mainly studied the possibility of COVID affecting children and required strategies to deal with the looming third wave. 

The Report: Key Highlights 

Prioritise vaccination for children with co-morbidities

The expert committee’s report has called for prioritising vaccination among children with co-morbidities.

It has called for a special focus on children with disabilities. 

Third wave’s peak is expected by late October 

•The expert committee’s report stated that even n with “strict interventions”, the peak of the third wave may arrive by late October.

•The expert committee’s statements are concurring with earlier assessments by different institutions.
 
•Many studies previously have also spoken about the third wave peaking in September/ October. 

Kids may be vulnerable 

The report highlighted the vulnerability of kids as they haven’t been vaccinated. Though many experts are of the view that children are not prone to severe infection but they can be carriers and pass the infection to others.  

COVID-19 third wave less severe?

As per other estimates, the COVID-19 third wave may be less severe than the second. 

Recommendations by the committee:

•The committee has suggested a holistic home care model, calling for prioritising mental health issues among children and an immediate increase in pediatric medical capacities.

•The moot has called for the structuring of COVID wards in such a way that allows children’s parents or attendants to safely stay with them through their recovery.

•The expert drew attention to 82% shortage of pediatricians in primary health centres and 63% vacancies in community health centres. This data was cited from a parliamentary standing committee.

•The committee’s report stated that the situation is already dire and may worsen due to lack of adherence to Covid Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) along with delay in vaccination and insufficient medical facilities.

•The report pointed out that during the COVID-19 second wave, about 60-70 percent of children who had COVID-19 and had to be hospitalised as a result of it had comorbidities.

•The report noted that the low immunity of the children with comorbidities was the primary cause behind many developing MIS-C (Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome), which is a rare but serious medical condition that is developed post-Covid recovery.

•The report highlighted that learning from the past two waves of COVID-19, preparedness is the key. 

•The report stressed on taking proactive actions in the anticipation of the third wave. 

•The report has urged states to start enhancing paediatric Covid care facilities for treatment such as medicine, paediatric ambulance,ICU and paediatricians.

Committee Composition

•Santosh Kumar, head of governance and public policy at NIDM, was the coordinator of the committee of experts.

The other members of the committee included:

•Anurag Agarwal: Director of CSIR-IGIB

•MC Mishra-Ex-director of AIIMS

•Naveen Thacker- President of the Indian Paediatricians Association

•Gagandeep Kang- Professor of CMC, Vellore

•AK Pandey- Chairman of state monitoring committee on shelter for urban homeless

As per the report, the third wave of COVID-19 is already upon us if we look at the rising R-value and the reproduction rate of Covid-19, which has increased from 0.9 to 1 over the last week of July.

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