The Maharashtra government has taken a slew of decisions to curb the COVID-19 infection and mortality rate in the 0 to 18 age group. As COVID-19 vaccine doses cannot be administered to children, the government, in a significant move, will augment the universal programme specially to administer the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine (which is a vaccine primarily used against tuberculosis (TB)) and the MMR vaccine (which is a vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles)). This is as per the suggestion by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray at his virtual meeting with leading pediatricians. This is necessary as the state has reported a significant decline in the administration of these vaccines due to the lockdown last year.
A senior Health Department officer told the Free Press Journal, “The CM has asked the administration, in consultation with the task force, to immediately cover up the gaps. The government will expedite the vaccination of BCG and MMR against non-COVID-19 vaccine preventable diseases, especially with the advent of monsoon illnesses. Besides, the government will augment its manpower and infrastructure to treat pediatric patients. The Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) will train pediatricians and other doctors on IAP protocols to manage children with mild, moderate and severe infection. The government will ensure adequate stock of medicines, transportation of children who need intensive care, and psychological wellness in all children, especially during the present pandemic.”
Researchers say the MMR vaccine may help protect children against COVID-19. They came to that conclusion after their research revealed that people with higher levels of mumps antibodies tended to have less severe cases of COVID-19. They pointed out that the protection may occur because the virus that causes COVID-19 acts in a similar manner to the viruses that cause mumps and measles.
The former president of IAP Dr Swati Bhave said, initially, it was thought that since countries who routinely give BCG, like India, have lesser incidents and lesser complications of COVID 19. “It was presumed that BCG is playing a role, as it is used for immunotherapy in many autoimmune diseases and some cancers. But we don’t have concrete scientific evidence for this,” she added.
On the other hand, IAP Joint Secretary Dr Samir Dalwai suggested that the state government will also have to focus on strengthening tertiary care in rural areas.