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Omicron And Children: Does The COVID-19 Variant Pose Higher Risks For Kids Below 5 Years?

According to the Mumbai civic body, the number of COVID-19 positive air travellers who returned to Mumbai from 'at-risk' countries grew to 17 on Tuesday, with one additional patient. In a statement, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said these 17 foreigners had been hospitalised with COVID-19 after testing positive for the virus.

Air travellers who have tested positive for Coronavirus have been hospitalised, and their swab samples have been sent to be sequenced to determine whether they are infected with the new Omicron variant of the virus [1].

On Monday, a 37-year-old man who returned to Mumbai from South Africa on 25 November and his 36-year-old close contact, a woman who was arriving from the US at the airport on the same day, was infected with Omicron strain. Read about Omicron Risk In Children.

Do Omicron Pose Higher Risks For Infants Than Other Variants?

There have been many hospital admissions of infants under the age of 2 in an area hard-hit by the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus in South Africa, raising concerns that the variant may pose risks to young children. However, scientists in South Africa are unable to confirm a connection between Omicron and the high number of admissions of infants, which may be due to other factors [2].

The data from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) of South Africa indicate that 52 infants under age two were among 452 COVID-19 patients admitted to Tshwane between 14 and 28 November, a higher number than for any other age group [3].

However, more worrying is the fact that more children under the age of five are being hospitalised and a greater positivity rate among children ages 10 to 14, as opposed to the previous waves, which had not caused any serious illnesses among children.

"A new trend in this wave is the increase in hospitalisation of children under five," Wassila Jassat, a public health specialist at the NICD, said. "The incidence in those under-fives is now second-highest, and second only to the incidence in those over 60," she added [4].

It is not clear why this particular variant causes illness among children when compared to Delta or other COVID-19 variants.

  • There is anecdotal evidence that both parents and children testing positive have not been vaccinated [5].
  • Children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccines in most countries.
  • Additionally, there is no certainty that all of the infants included in the data are infected with COVID-19, as not all of them have been tested for the virus.
  • Due to practical considerations, infants who present with respiratory symptoms are routinely treated as if they have COVID-19 when they may have another illness, such as the flu.

Experts and doctors have long recommended vaccination for children. The vaccination of children above the age of 12 is permitted in some countries; however, some countries, including India, do not allow vaccinations to be administered to children below the age of 18.

At first, it was assumed that children would be able to cope with the virus on their own; symptoms were manageable at home, and there were no signs of complications. Consequently, they were not prioritised for vaccination.

Despite this, the number of cases of COVID among children has increased over time. According to recent findings, as new variants emerge, the tally only increases, and the severity of cases seems to be increasing [6].

On A Final Note...

With the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, there has been a significant increase in the use of COVID-19 all over the world, including in India. Up to now, the virus has not caused any deaths, and most of the cases have been mild.

Despite the fact that COVID vaccines do not provide complete immunity against the virus, they may reduce the severity of its effects. In addition, it lessens the chances of complications and reduces the likelihood of hospitalisation. Given the condition of the children in South African hospitals, children around the globe must receive their vaccines as soon as possible.

Story first published: Thursday, December 9, 2021, 15:23 [IST]
Read more about: omicron covid coronavirus