A panel set up by the central government, in its latest report, warned that the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic could peak around October. The panel also stated that children might be at similar risk as adults in the anticipated third Covid wave.
panel set up by the central government, in its latest report, has warned that the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic could peak around October. It said the public healthcare system should have better medical preparedness for children who might be at similar risk as adults.
In the first two nationwide waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, the children were considered as a slightly slower risk population based on available evidence.
The report of a committee of experts constituted under the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), which was set up by the Union home ministry, said, “Paediatric [control] facilities including doctors, staff, equipment like ventilators, ambulances etc are nowhere close to what may be required in case a large number of children become infected.”
How the third Covid wave may affect children?
According to the report, there is no direct evidence that proves children in India will be more affected in the anticipated third wave. The report, however, suggests that children remain a cause of concern since they are still not vaccinated.
“Many health experts had initially raised concerns about the possibility of a third wave affecting children more adversely than adults. However, recent scientific data suggests otherwise,” the report said.
“The Indian Academy of Paediatrics found that there is no biological evidence that the current and the new Delta Plus variant will affect children more disproportionately than adults,” it said.
“The Lancet Covid-19 Commission India Task Force has also concluded that there is no current evidence that an anticipated third wave will target children specifically,” the report said.
Then why worry?
The report said, “But there is a cause for worry if not panic according to public health experts, since the children below 18 years remain unvaccinated in India.”
“Also, the existing paediatric health care facilities are not robust enough to treat children on a large scale. Epidemics have the maximum impact on a country’s future, the Lancet Covid-19 Commission India Task Force report also points that though children have milder disease and low mortality rate as compared to adults, those with underlying co-morbidities might be at higher risk,” the report stated.
What the report said about vaccinating children?
The study titled, “Third Wave Preparedness: Children Vulnerability” explored the possible impact of Covid-19 on children and the strategies required to deal with the pandemic.
- The panel recommended that vaccination among children should be a top priority while dealing with the anticipated third Covid wave.
- Vaccination among younger children and children with co-morbidities should be an immediate future priority. However, vaccination in children needs to be done with a lot of caution.
- Teachers and school staff must be vaccinated as essential workers throughout the country.
- Identification of the need for rehabilitation of Covid-affected children – both short as well as long terms.
- Hospitals should be well equipped with a comprehensive child care model.
- If a child is positive then there should be a place where hospitals can accommodate the parents as well and vice versa.
How many daily Covid cases can be expected in the third wave?
The panel citing a recent study said India can witness “6 lakh cases per day in the third wave” if the vaccination rate does not improve in the country.
It said, “According to a recent study done by professors and alumni from Pandit Deendayal Energy University (PDEU) in collaboration with Nirma University, the vaccination rate of India is currently at 3.2 per cent. It stated that if the vaccination rate does not improve, India can witness 6 lakh cases per day in the next (third) wave.” the report said.
Will vaccination help?
The report said, “But if the government’s proposal to increase this rate by five times (1 crore doses per day) comes to fruition, India will see only 25 per cent of the cases (seen in the second wave) during the third wave peak.”
“The same study titled “Pattern Recognition: Prediction of Covid third wave in India using time series forecasting with deep learning models” forecasts that this ramped-up vaccination strategy can contract Covid infections during the third wave peak by 85 per cent. Hence, vaccination is the only way out of this pandemic,” the report said.
The report said the “emergence of a third wave could be significantly challenged” only by increasing the vaccination rate in the country.
“The emergence of a third wave could be significantly challenged by expanding vaccination but only around 7.6 per cent (10.4 Crore) are fully vaccinated. According to the Covid vaccination dashboard of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as of 2 August 2021, 47,85,44, 144 (over 47 Crore) individuals have been administered at least one dose of Covid vaccine,” the report said.
“Prediction of Covid third wave in India using time series forecasting with deep learning models’ forecasts that this ramped-up vaccination strategy can contract Covid infections during the third wave peak by 85 per cent. Hence, vaccination is the only way out of this pandemic,” the report said.
Will the Delta Plus variant be the driver of the third Covid wave?
In its report, the panel stated there was no direct evidence to link the Delta Plus variant as the main driver of the third Covid-19 wave in India. However it remains a cause of concern, the report said.
“The Delta Plus variant formed due to the mutation in the B.1.617.2 (Delta variant) that drove the fatal second surge in India. This new variant of concern is a sub-lineage of the Delta variant that has acquired a spike protein mutation ‘K417N’ which is also found in the Beta variant (first detected in South Africa),” the report said.
“Three patients have succumbed due to this variant so far in India, one an octogenarian with co-morbidities (Maharashtra) and two unvaccinated (Madhya Pradesh).”
“According to the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), a consortium of 28 laboratories tasked with genome sequencing by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Delta Plus variant has three worrying characteristics – increased transmissibility, stronger binding in receptors of lung cells and potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response,” the report said.
The panel’s report said there was also “not enough evidence” as of now to designate the Delta Plus variant as more dangerous than the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2.
“Though there is not enough evidence as of now to designate the Delta Plus variant as more dangerous than Delta, according to NCDC, as of August 2, 2021, this variant has been detected in 70 cases across 16 states from the 58,240 samples that have been sequenced so far in India,” the report said.
“As per National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), these states range from Maharashtra (23), Madhya Pradesh (11), Tamil Nadu (10), Chandigarh (4), Punjab (2), Gujarat (2), Uttar Pradesh (2), Karnataka (3), Kerala (3) and Telangana (2).”
“The Health Ministry has categorised this Delta Plus variant B.1.617.2.1 of SARS COV-2 as a ‘Variant of Concern’ (VOC) and given directions to states to implement containment measures immediately.15 Along with India, this variant has also been detected in the US, UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Nepal, China and Russia,” the MHA (the Ministry of Home Affairs) panel said in its report.