The twin viral concerns of Covid-19 and monkeypox in children, especially those less than 12 years, are a worry for some parents — especially since countries like Israel, the US and the United Kingdom, for instance, have begun to vaccinate this age group against Covid-19.
However, India has not taken a decision on the matter, even though two vaccines have been approved (Covaxin and Corbevax).
Dr Kishore Kumar, neonatologist and Founder-Chairman of the CloudNine chain of maternity and childcare hospitals, says it is time to get children vaccinated against Covid-19, even as Monkeypox presently remains a lesser worry.
“We are seeing an increasing number of children with the Covid-19 illness who have been unprotected and many children are getting exposed because they're going out now with the family... Children are not vaccinated, and they're also going to school where they're getting exposed to people and adults who are vaccinated might be asymptomatically carrying or infecting children,” he told BusinessLine.
“The pandemic continues as long as there are mutations of the viruses... So that's why we need to vaccinate everybody, or at least everybody should have had some sort of immunity… in the last few months, we seem to be seeing a lot more children with Covid-19 positive illness,” he said.
Close to two months ago, the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention approved vaccines for children from 6 months to 12 years. And this week, in its updated guidelines, the CDC allowed children to continue going to school, even if they had been exposed to the virus and were asymptomatic, provided they wore good masks.
According to the World Health Organization, “SARS-CoV-2 typically causes less severe illness and fewer deaths in children and adolescents compared to adults. Nonetheless, children and adolescents remain susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and may transmit the virus to others, with the risk of both infection and transmission increasing with age.”
Further, it added, “Children and adolescents can experience prolonged clinical symptoms (known as “long Covid-19”..), however, the frequency and characteristics of these conditions are still under investigation, and to date, they appear to be less frequent compared to adults.”
“Additionally, a hyperinflammatory syndrome, although rare, has been reported to occur worldwide and complicates recovery from Covid-19. This is referred to as paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome temporally associated with SARS-CoV-2 in Europe and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) in North America,” it said.
Monkeypox and kids
When it comes to children and monkeypox, a recent article in The Lancet, Child and Adolescent Health, said, children when infected were susceptible to complications. “Previous monkeypox outbreaks have reported increased mortality and hospitalisation rates in children, even in high-income countries, such as the US, in which the only two severe presentations during the 2003 outbreak were observed in the paediatric population,” it said.
Dr Kumar observed that presently in India monkeypox did not require vaccination “as long as we maintain strict isolation, hand washing and social distancing, (and) avoid using somebody else's utensils and fomites (objects including clothing, bedding etc that may carry infection),” he said, laying emphasis on basic hygiene.