Arindam Das
Associate Professor and Chairperson (PhD Program)
IIHMR University, Jaipur

Impact of COVID-19 on health of children

COVID-19 or coronavirus is playing havoc on the health of people across the globe, affects around 216 countries as of August 2020. The virus mostly affected elderly population, more specifically persons suffering from any non-communicable disease. However, the same draw the attention of health systems toward the communicable diseases from non-communicable diseases after a long time.

The problem aggravated several times as the same does not have any known medicine to cure; moreover, making difficult to have a vaccine in near future as the virus changes its characteristics frequently.

As a result, the countries had to take various measures including prolonged and repeated lockdown, social distancing and using of face mask, and hand sanitizer.

Globally, the health systems of almost all the countries started looking at this pandemic and working on a war foot. Fortunately, the virus does not affect much the young population or children.

However, the same lead to negligence toward vaccine preventable diseases (VPD) for the children and many children are missing the critical vaccine against VPD during 2020.

As per the analysis of the World Health Organization and Unicef the number of deaths and affected children due to VPD will increase quite a fold in coming years. The most affected children will be the youngest ones, specifically children born in second half of 2019 and entire 2020.

Also, the organizations producing vaccines for VPD across the globe are involved in innovation of vaccine for COVID-19, might lead to shortage in supply for various VPD like BCG, DPT, polio, hepatitis B, and measles in future. As a result, a greater number of children will suffer and may die from VPD in future. What is more worrisome to me is the rate of infection for some of the VPD are much higher than COVID-19.

It may infect a huge number of infants and young children within no time. One example of the same may help us to realize the importance as well as severity of the problem.

The rate of infection of any infectious disease is represented by R0. It suggests, on average an infected person infect how many persons. The R0 for COVID-19 stands in between 2-3, it means a person infected by COVID-19 may infect 2.5 person on average.

If we take the example of measles, the R0 for the same is 12–18, means it may infect 15 persons on average suggest six times more infectious than COVID-19.

By and large, I feel, children of less developed and economically poor countries, who mostly depend on imports of vaccines for VPD, will suffer more than the developed countries or the countries producing vaccines. Parents of less developed countries with poor economic condition, will find it even harder if their children start suffering from any VPD.

It is the duty of the global community, national government, state and local government, health care professionals, persons involved in health care service, non-government organizations, civil society, and others to ensure the availability and accessibility of vaccines against VPD. So that, we may avoid more devastating pandemics to get rid of from COVID-19. 

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