The Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM) the apex association in the country had organized a webinar on “COVID-19 VACCINATION FOR CHILDREN” under its “illness to wellness” campaign which seeks to highlight salient points regarding vaccination in children.
The webinar was attended by, Shri Anil Rajput, Chairperson, ASSOCHAM CSR Council, Dr. G. C. Khilnani, Ex-Head & Professor, Department of Pulmonary Medicine & Sleep Disorders, AIIMS, New Delhi Chairman, PSRI Institute of Pulmonary Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, Dr. Rahul Nagpal, Director & Head of Pediatrics Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj, Dr. Amita Mahajan Sr. Consultant, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Dr. Rajesh Kesari, Founder, and Director, Total Care Control.
Initiating the webinar Shri Anil Rajput, Chairperson, ASSOCHAM CSR Council said, “COVID-19 has upended the life of children, and children’s health is one of the most important issues in sustainable development goals. Although the infection has been less severe for children one cannot ignore the importance of vaccination, and with rising cases of Omicron there is a high risk for children especially who have underlying medical conditions like Asthama, obesity, heart diseases etc”
Mr Rajput further added that several countries have extended their immunization programme for children, but India is yet to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine for children. Vaccinating children will not only decrease COVID19 transmission in this age group but will also reduce transmission from children to adults, minimize disruptions to education and maintain their overall well-being and health.
Taking the parents perspective, Dr. G. C. Khilnani, Ex-Head & Professor, Department of Pulmonary Medicine & Sleep Disorders, AIIMS, New Delhi Chairman, PSRI Institute of Pulmonary Critical Care & Sleep Medicine said, There are incidences of increased obesity amongst parents and this has a direct bearing on children as they will watch their parents itself, with this, there are concerns over increasing alcoholism and child abuse that has come with the social isolation and altercations between the parents themselves and even worse is the loss of a parent that the child may go through during the Pandemic. There is also the issue of increased screen time that the children are facing with all the education and classes taking place in online form due to the Pandemic.
Speaking on the mental well-being of children, Dr. Rahul Nagpal, Director & Head of Pediatrics Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj said, Besides the physical aspects’ children have been majorly restricted and socially isolated, this has a bearing on their mental health and wellbeing which is the reason why there is an increase in developmental disorders in children in this early stage, the loss of a parent has caused anxiety and nervousness amongst the children as well. The children are losing a sense of reality due to increased screen time as most of their time now is spent looking at fictional cartoons and other characters. The risk of MISC (Multi-system inflammatory syndrome) cannot be ignored in children. MISC is the most important complication as it happens at least after a month of active disease and 1 in 10 lac children get affected due to hyperactivity of the immune system.
Elaborating on children’s specific responses, Dr. Amita Mahajan Sr. Consultant, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals said, The treatment has varying and differing effects on every child and asymptomatic children will have a more severe impact, and thus steps were taken to limit exposure to the infection, as it was seen that indirect impact was more severe in children with cancer. It is a fact that healthy children do not suffer so badly, unlike children who already have an underlying disease like cancer. The vaccination for high-risk children population has not yet been approved by the DCGI and in the west, only children above 5 years of age are being immunized, the DCGI is carefully deliberating the risk to benefit ratio. Although the pediatric vaccination will build confidence as soon as some degree of vaccination is rolled out.
Dr. Rajesh Kesari, Founder, and Director, Total Care Control said, The most effective arsenal against this virus is the vaccine, our country has made great strides in process of vaccination and India has taken one of the biggest steps, but are these steps enough, as children are being isolated which is making them irritable and depressed, and with the rising burden with the parents to maintain a family discussion on the new variant and children’s vaccination becomes imperative.
The panellists were unanimous in their praise for ASSOCHAM for its initiative, they also spoke about the side effects of Indian vaccines which they sought out to be minimal, the severeness of vaccine hesitancy has been effectively replaced by aggressive acquiring of vaccines, there was discussion on the booster dose as the vaccine efficacy gets lower as time passes by and after 6 months it was found to be 20-25% as compared to 90-95% during the first months, full vaccination is hardly more than 50% and school-going children need to be vaccinated as it will prevent transmission and duration of transmission, as COVID is here to stay we need to take steps to address this commotion.