Altogether 34,066 children below the age of 18 years have tested positive for COVID-19 during the second wave of the pandemic in Assam, Director, National Health Mission of the state, Dr Lakshmanan S said on Monday.
This accounts for 12 per cent of the total cases reported since April this year. A total of 5,755 cases are children below five years whereas 28,851 are between 6 and 18 years.
Of the 34,066 positive cases, 34 children, mostly with comorbidities, have succumbed to the infection, he said. Most of them had comorbidities like congenital diseases of the heart, kidney, rare malformations and others, especially among those less than five years of age.
Kamrup Metro has the highest caseload with 5,346 children found to be infected by the virus. This comprises 10.04 per cent of the total caseload of 53,251 in the district.
Dibrugarh follows next with 2,430 COVID-19 cases among children, which accounts for 12.19 per cent of the total 19,937 COVID19 cases in the district. Nagaon is placed third with 2,288 cases below 18 years and this stands at 14.38 per cent of the total 15,910 cases.
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A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Kamrup Rural is placed fourth with 2,023 coronavirus cases among children, which stands at 11.75 per cent of the total 17,216 cases. Sonitpur is fifth with 1,839 COVID-19 cases among children, which stands at 13.89 per cent of the total 13,239 cases in the district.
The other districts have also reported positive cases among children below the age of 18. During the ongoing Assam Community Surveillance Programme Phase 3 (ACSP 3), many children staying with COVID- 19 positive parents or guardians who opted for home isolation, have subsequently tested positive for the infection, the NHM director said.
Therefore, parents or guardians who have tested COVID- 19 positive should preferably opt for institutional quarantine instead of home quarantine to prevent the spread of coronavirus among children, he added.
The Health Department is strictly following the guidelines issued by the Government of India regarding Paediatric COVID management and has already initiated a slew of steps to address and manage the viral infection among the vulnerable age groups.The establishment of COVID Paediatric ICUs in all medical colleges and district hospitals are at an advanced stage, he said. More than 5,000 health care workers including doctors, nurses and paramedical staff have already been trained so that maximum lives can be saved, the NHM director added.