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COVID-19, Delta, and children: All you need to know

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A large part of the world is still struggling with the coronavirus over a year after the pandemic turned lives upside down. The vaccination programmes have been ramped up across the globe, but the newer mutations continue to outsmart efforts.

COVID-19, Delta, and children: All you need to know

The Delta variant, the deadly variant of coronavirus first detected in India, has now spread to over 80 countries across the globe. The Delta triggered a massive second wave of infections and death in the country in April-May.

It now accounts for over 10 percent of fresh cases in the USA, over 90 percent cases in the UK over the last week, and continues to dominate the caseloads in India and Singapore as well.

A recent study by the All Indian Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) suggests that the Delta variant infected the fully and partially vaccinated people as well.

On June 18, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said, “the Delta variant is well on its way to becoming the dominant variant globally because of its significantly increased transmissibility.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has tagged it as a “variant of concern”.

Meanwhile, cases of COVID-19 in children are being keenly observed in the country amid speculation that a potential third wave will possibly target them. The number of infections among children in the second Delta-dominant wave was more than double what was reported in the first wave.

“The virus will find those who are susceptible. Since most elderly and others are already infected or have been vaccinated, the virus will continue to infect those who are not protected. Therefore, definitely, more and more people in the younger age group, including children are prone to higher infection in future waves. But what proportion of the younger age groups are having severe symptoms is not very clear yet,” said Giridhar Babu, a professor of epidemiology.

Dr VK Paul, chairman of the National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration, has said the possibility of the virus changing its behaviour in future can’t be denied.

While the first wave mainly targeted the elderly, the second wave took a toll on the younger population and the impact of COVID-19 may increase in children, Dr Paul added.

A study by the Imperial College London showed there was a five-fold increase in the COVID-19 test positivity among children 5 to 12 years and adults 18 to 24 than in those 65 or older.

It also said that people under the age of 50 were 2.5 times more likely to be infected than older people, although the researchers noted: “Infections seem to be growing at a comparable rate in both age-groups.”

In India, top drugmakers have shifted focus to vaccines for children. The Covishield-maker Serum Institute of India (SII), which is supplying most of the country’s COVID-19 vaccine doses for adults, is expected to begin clinical trials of the Novavax vaccine for children next month.

Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech has already kicked off clinical trials of Covaxin for children aged between 12-18. The company is also expected to conduct trials for children in the age groups of 6-12 years and 2-6 years and is also conducting clinical trials of its nasal Covid-19 vaccine for children.

Zydus Cadila has begun the trials of ZyCoV-D, Covid-19 vaccine in children aged 12-18. The pharma company now plans to conduct clinical trials for its vaccine in children of the 5-12 age.

In the USA and Germany children in the age bracket of 12-16 are being given the Pfizer vaccine, while trials for the same are underway in the UK. The vaccine has been approved for children in Canada.

While Poland and Italy are inoculating children in the 12-15 age group, France and Hungary have also started vaccinating children in the age group of 16-18.

Earlier, Xinhua had reported that China had granted emergency use authorization to its vaccines Sinopharm and Sinovac for children in the age group of 3-17 years.

For more updates, follow our COVID-19 live blog

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