Health

High time for Covid-19 vaccine for kids, urge experts

Health, according to the World Health Organization, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.[1] A variety of definitions have been used for different purposes over time. Health can be promoted by encouraging healthful activities, such as regular physical exercise and adequate sleep,[2] and by reducing or avoiding unhealthful activities or situations, such as smoking or excessive stress. Some factors affecting health are due to individual choices, such as whether to engage in a high-risk behavior, while others are due to structural causes, such as whether the society is arranged in a way that makes it easier or harder for people to get necessary healthcare services. Still other factors are beyond both individual and group choices, such as genetic disorders.

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With over 100 cases of Omicron – the latest Covid-19 variant on the block – in India, the scare and spread only seems to be on the rise. The smartest of the lot are already back to following stringent safety protocols, and those who have received both doses of vaccination are wondering about booster shots. But one of the most worried section of people are parents of little kids, who are yet to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in the country.

Recently, a health ministry official claimed that 86 percent of the country’s population eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine has received its first dose. While efforts are on to inoculate everyone at the earliest, the safety of kids amid this growing net of Omicron is a rising concern.

A group of experts deliberated on ‘Covid-19 vaccination for children’ at a webinar organised by industry body Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM). It was a part of its ‘illness to wellness’ campaign which seeks to highlight salient points regarding vaccination in kids.

Experts on the need for Covid-19 vaccine for children

The most effective arsenal against this virus is the vaccine, said Dr Rajesh Kesari, Founder and Director of pathology lab Total Care Control, according to a press statement.

“Our country has made great strides in the process of vaccination and India has taken one of the biggest steps. But are these steps enough as children are being isolated, which is making them irritable and depressed,” added Kesari.

ASSOCHAM CSR Council Chairperson Anil Rajput noted how Covid-19 has upended the life of children.

“Children’s health is one of the most important issues in sustainable development goals. Although the (Covid-19) infection has been less severe for children, one cannot ignore the importance of vaccination. With rising cases of Omicron, there is a high risk for children, especially those who have underlying medical conditions like asthma, obesity, heart diseases,” Rajput said.

Rajput asserted how while several countries have extended their immunization programme for children, India is yet to roll out a Covid-19 vaccine for children.

“Vaccinating children will not only decrease Covid-19 transmission in this age group, but will also reduce transmission from children to adults, minimise disruptions to education and maintain their overall well-being and health,” he added.

covid-19 vaccine
Over 100 cases of Omicron have emerged in India. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Ever since the pandemic became a reality, life turned topsy turvy for kids. Children need to be freed from this current environment also for their mental health.

Covid-19 and mental health of children

Dr Rahul Nagpal, Director and Head of Pediatrics, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, drew attention to how the pandemic has affected the mental health of kids.

  • Restrictions and social isolation has affected their mental health and well-being.
  • That has also led to an increase in developmental disorders in children.
  • The loss of a parent has caused anxiety and nervousness among children as well.
  • Children are losing a sense of reality due to increased screen time as most of their time now is spent looking at fictional cartoons and other characters.
covid-19 vaccine
Mental health of children has been impacted. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What is happening about the Covid-19 vaccine for children?

Vaccination for the high-risk children population has not yet been approved by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), said Dr Amita Mahajan, Senior Consultant, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.

“In the West, only children above 5 years of age are being immunized. The DCGI is carefully deliberating the risk to benefit ratio. Although the pediatric vaccination will build confidence as soon as some degree of vaccination is rolled out,” she added.

Till then, keep your children safe.

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