A committee of experts constituted under the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) has warned of third Covid wave that could peak around late October. The committee was set up under the direction of the Home Ministry which had sought better preparedness for children who might be at high risk. The report has been submitted to the PMO.
The study titled "Third Wave Preparedness: Children Vulnerability and Recovery" has details about the possibility of Covid-affecting children and the required strategies to deal with the pandemic. The report has underlined that the "paediatric facilities like doctors, staff, equipment like ventilators, ambulances, etc are nowhere close to what may be required in case a large number of children become infected".
The report said the third wave is already upon us if we look at the rising R value, the reproduction rate of Covid-19, that has increased from 0.9 to 1 over the last week of July.
The report has called for prioritising vaccination among children with co-morbidities and a special focus on those with disability. Even with "strict interventions", the peak of the third wave is expected to arrive by late October, the experts have concurred with earlier assessments of different institutions. Several studies have spoken of the likelihood of a third wave but these are estimates.
The report has categorically underlined two important points - kids as vulnerable because they haven't been vaccinated and are more prone to severe infections though it can pass the virus to others. However, the other estimates have said the third wave may prove to be less severe than the second.
The committee has suggested "a holistic home care model, immediate increase in paediatric medical capacities and prioritising mental health issues among children". It has mooted structuring of Covid wards in a way that allows children's attendants or parents to safely stay with them through their recovery.
The experts in the committee have expressed concern over about 82 per cent shortage of pediatricians in primary health centres and 63 per cent vacancies in community health centres.
The report said, "The situation is already dire, and might worsen due to lack of adherence to Covid Appropriate Behaviour (CAB), insufficient medical facilities and lagging vaccination". The report further added that about 60- 70 per cent children during the second wave got hospitalised due to Covid had co-morbidities and their low immunity was the primary cause behind many developing MIS-C (Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome), a "rare but serious condition" developed post-Covid recovery.
The committee of experts included Anurag Agarwal, director of CSIR-IGIB; MC Mishra, ex-director of AIIMS; Naveen Thacker, president of the Indian pediatricians Association; Gagandeep Kang, professor of CMC, Vellore and A.K. Pandey, chairman of state monitoring committee on shelter for urban homeless.
The report has called for "a scientific approach coupled with focused public spending" to deal with pandemic management.