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Updated on: Sunday, December 26, 2021, 08:57 PM IST

FPJ Exclusive: Maharashtra Paediatric Task Force member Dr Samir Dalwai on children's vaccination

The 2011 census data reveals that about 35% of the population is in the age group of 0-14 years and another 10% between 15 and 19 years.
Maharashtra Paediatric Task Force member Dr Samir Dalwai | Photo: File Image

Maharashtra Paediatric Task Force member Dr Samir Dalwai | Photo: File Image

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In an exclusive interview, the Maharashtra Paediatric Task Force member & a consultant developmental behavioural paediatrician D Samir Dalwai explain the importance of vaccination of children for the age group of 15-18.

Q: What is your take on the Centre’s announcement?

A: While the second successive New Year’s Eve under the shadow of Covid-19 is a weekend away and vaccines and variants dominate the headlines, the New Year promises to bring in the proverbial ray of hope for children and their parents. At long last, the Central Government has announced that come 3rd January 2022, we will vaccinate children in the age group of 15 to 18 years for Covid-19.

Children being a significant part of the population are naturally a major section to be targeted. India has about 40 percent of its population below 19 years of age.

The 2011 census data reveals that about 35% of the population is in the age group of 0-14 years and another 10% between 15 and 19 years.

More significantly, India has the largest adolescent population in the world, 253 million, and every fifth person is between 10 to 19 years.

Moreover, children are recognised as very subtle vectors of the disease. Since they cannot be easily identified as sources of infection, they represent a big threat to the most vulnerable. The second wave was also notable due to increased virulence, leading to more infections in children and higher mortality in the younger population as compared with the first wave. Besides, children with comorbidities are at significantly higher risk than others.

Q: Amid rising COVID 19 and Omicron Variant cases, how vaccination is key to curb virus infection?

A: After a prolonged hiatus, schools across India, especially the higher classes, have reopened, and complete reopening is on the anvil for all classes. With the threat of the Omicron variant led surge across other parts of the world, the need to rush toward herd immunity as well as cover the paediatric and adolescent population with vaccine protection is immediate.

Adolescents have started attending school now. It is observed that developmentally, adolescents have a higher risk-taking behaviour and observing Covid Appropriate Behaviour at all times may be overlooked, thus exposing the adolescent and thereby his/her family, to a higher risk of infection.

As compared to the severity of illness in children below 12 years, the severity of Covid-19 related illness in adolescents is somewhat higher. Moreover, this is the time for career-defining examinations and the future of millions of anxious students is on the anvil. Hence, after adult vaccination, it is now logical to vaccinate the next group i.e. the adolescents.

Q: What measures need to be taken apart from vaccination to prevent infection?

A: For parents used to get children vaccinated, this is nothing new and they are expected to get the same done fore with. The standard precautions of observation for 30 minutes post the vaccination and the occasional mild fever or discomfort is known to parents. 100 crore doses have been administered without significant concern.

Once this 15-18 years age group begins their vaccination, we hope the government will begin vaccinating the younger age group as well.

Schools, as of now, are expected to carry on with their classes, entirely following Covid norms. Finally, wearing appropriate masks, social distancing, hygiene and avoiding crowding are the most definitive measures to prevent infection with COVID 19 and will continue to be in place for a while.

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Published on: Sunday, December 26, 2021, 08:57 PM IST
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