During the initial wave of the Covid-19 epidemic last year, 21,523 youngsters were infected, with 38 of them dying. Regrettably, this figure is substantially larger in the second wave than in the first. The second wave of this epidemic has infected 24,821 youngsters in less than two months, with 22 children reported deceased thus far.
The third and fourth waves, according to public health experts, may put children at greater risk. In light of this, the government has directed hospitals around the country to devote 20% of their beds to children.
While the country’s first wave of the Covid-19 epidemic was coming under control, the second wave, which began in March-April, caused and continues to cause significant human casualties, owing to a scarcity of hospital beds and oxygen. The health-care system was unable to keep up with the infection’s rapid spread.
To avoid such a helpless situation, officials from the Ministry of Health claim that plans are in the works to build infrastructure specifically for children at major hospitals.
Dr Madan Kumar Upadhyay, the chief of the Ministry of Ministry’s Quality Standard and Regulation Division, spoke with Onlinekhabar recently about the topic.
Here’s an edited transcript of the conversation:
What evidence do you have that youngsters will be more vulnerable in the third and fourth waves of the pandemic?
The infection was more common in the initial wave among the elderly. It changed in the second wave, as the younger working-age demographic became increasingly afflicted. When an infection is discovered in a physically fit and active group, it is likely to spread to children of all ages, including infants and school-aged children.
Approximately 10% of youngsters are testing positive for Covid-19 every day during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which began two months ago.
This suggests that youngsters are more susceptible to coronavirus infection. In comparison to other age groups, children’s infections are not considered to be as dangerous. However, there is no guarantee that illnesses in children will not become serious or life-threatening tomorrow. If we look at statistics from other nations, it is possible to predict that children will be more vulnerable in the approaching wave.
Is this why the Ministry of Health has told hospitals to prepare beds for children?
Only a few governmental and private institutions specialize on treating children. Only the Kanti Children’s Hospital is run by the government. In the same way, there are only two or three private children’s hospitals in the country.
Consider what would happen if the same number of children become infected.
With only a few children’s hospitals in the country, the government is putting in place the infrastructure needed to protect children from a pandemic that may strike tomorrow.
The percentage of children under the age of 18 is 41.84 percent, according to the 2011 census. Even if roughly 20% of youngsters become infected with the coronavirus, plans are being made to make beds readily available to afflicted youngsters.
So, how is the planning going?
Although there are pediatric wards in both government and commercial hospitals, pediatric intensive care units are few. The number of NICU beds in hospitals is insufficient to withstand a pandemic tomorrow.
If the third or fourth wave slams on us in this circumstance, it might be disastrous.
In the first and second waves, we were able to treat adults and children who were infected by coronavirus in some way. However, we are unable to apply the same standard to the treatment of children. Children’s treatment differs from adults’.
In addition, children will require oxygen therapy, drugs, and equipment. As a result, the government believes that resources should be prepared in every way possible to face a variety of difficulties.
The government is in charge of pediatric ventilators. To avoid an oxygen shortage, liquid oxygen plants are being installed in hospitals with more than 100 beds. We’re also seeking for someone who can manage oxygen cylinders and concentrators.
We believed that the coronavirus’s spread would be stopped in the first wave. However, the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic quickly proved us wrong. As a result, it is impossible to rule out the possibility of a third or fourth wave. We can prepare well in advance if we work for it now. That preparation will enable you to continue working even if more ailments emerge tomorrow. It will be difficult tomorrow if you do not prepare well now.
What about the implementation difficulties?
The most difficult problem is obtaining the required equipment and people resources. Children have different ventilators and ICU sets than adults. It’s possible that it won’t be available everywhere. It has to be brought in from somewhere else.
There could also be a shortage of trained personnel in pediatric intensive care units. There are paediatricians, of course. However, critical care and infectious disease specialists with experience in paediatrics are in short supply, just as they are for the elderly and children. Pediatric nursing is understaffed, which makes it difficult to deliver crucial care. As a result, the government is prepared to implement a package that will train existing human resources. Experts are also being consulted in this regard for further discussions.