Children less severely impacted by Covid-19 pandemic: WHO chief scientist

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New Delhi, September 24

Children have been less severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and their chances of recovery are very well, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said on Friday.

She, however, said SARS-CoV2 virus may not disappear, but it is not going to cause the kind of impact and panic it caused over the last two years.

Participating in a virtual session on ‘Priorities after Pandemic; What Young India wants?’- Indian Student Parliament, Swaminathan said the reason why people talk about children being susceptible is because vaccination programmes today in most countries are targeting people above the age of 18 and elderly as they are the most vulnerable.

“When you do that, you are left with younger, and younger people who are unvaccinated. And, therefore, when you have the virus circulating in the community, those people are basically the susceptible population,” she said in response to a question.

In many countries, it is seen that by vaccinating older people, the infection pattern shifts to younger people.

“I want to assure you that children on the whole have been less severely impacted by this pandemic. Not that they don’t get infected. Yes, they do get infected as adults but they don’t get severely ill. Clearly, it is an age-related correlation with the severity,” she said.

“Even if they get infected, the chances are that they recover very well,” the WHO chief scientist said.

On inoculation of children against the virus in India, she said there will be vaccines for children. The drug regulator has given a nod to Zydus Cadila for administering to adolescents over 12 years, besides the age group of 18 years and above.

The phase 2/3 clinical trial data of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin in the age group two to 18 years is underway.

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) in July granted permission to Serum Institute of India (SII) for conducting phase 2/3 trials of Covid-19 vaccine Covovax on children aged two to 17 years with certain conditions.

Swaminathan added that many countries have third, fourth and fifth waves and hoped that India will not have a third wave.

Commenting on how the pandemic could shape, she said Covid-19 is going to become the next respiratory virus.

Stressing that vaccines are working very well and give a good deal of protection, she said wearing a mask, avoiding crowds and mass gatherings, being in a well-ventilated place and respiratory hygiene are some of the measures that can keep the spread of the virus under control.

“The virus may not disappear. But it is not going to cause the kind of impact, the kind of panic caused over the last two years. Some of these precautions will become part of our life,” she said.

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