Building up Covid infrastructure for children in Assam looks doubtful – Times of India

By | August 24, 2021

GUWAHATI: Despite the Union government’s alert to states to prepare for pediatric care and NITI Aayog’s advisory to make preparations for 23% hospitalisation in case of a surge in Covid cases shortly, the state government is more focused on reopening schools. The target of building up Covid infrastructure for children in the state also looks doubtful.

The state government had planned 1,000 Paediatric Intensive Care Units (PICU), out of which the minimum goal was 10 in each district. But the state health department and the National Health Mission officials could not say anything on the progress of achieving this goal set in June.

“There is no estimation on how many children can be affected by the third wave if it comes. How can NITI Ayog tell us about the percentage of children to be hit? When it happens, then only we will be able to know the rate of Covid infection among children,” said principal secretary to the state health and family welfare department, Anurag Goel. He further said the state health department has its plans to tackle the crisis if it comes and is working towards that end.


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Assam is going ahead to complete 10 PICU in each of the district hospitals to treat children below 18 years, while the corresponding figure set for all medical colleges is a minimum of 30. However, the target is yet to be achieved.

Health department sources said five to eight per cent of the total Covid infections in the first and second wave were children in the state. But considering the warning from the Centre, this figure may go up further in a possible third-wave strike. During the fourth nationwide sero survey for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) detected sero prevalence in children on a par with adults in Assam. During the study carried out in the second wave, children between six and 14 years were found to have similar sero prevalence in the range of 39.4% to 52.2%, as in adults.

When contacted, Assam director of medical education, Dr Anup Kumar Barman, said,”Our experience says the severity of the disease can be more in case of children simply because they are not vaccinated. Covid symptoms are lesser among vaccinated people. But since children have less comorbid conditions, there may be fewer fatalities among children.”

Government sources said the threat of Covid infection among children will not derail the state government’s plans to reopen schools from September 1. The state education department sought the views of the health department on plans to reopen educational institutions and the latter is likely to give its go-ahead. “The third wave may not strike and children may not be hit. We are going to open schools in September,” said Dr Manoj Choudhury, executive director at NHM, Assam. He said the state’s health infrastructure has received a major boost since the outbreak of the pandemic and the number of ICU beds has increased from 400 to 1500.

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