India and several other countries have been undergoing the deadly second wave of Covid-19 and fear looms large that future waves might predominately infect children.
The world is gearing up to efficiently deal with this dynamic situation. The world is now focusing on a universal vaccination against Covid and a vaccination for children has emerged as a top priority.
Western countries are moving ahead with the vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 and efforts are being made to go even younger than this age group. Given the vulnerability of children against future waves, countries are planning to vaccinate children from 2-years onwards.
During previous waves, children’s risk of becoming very ill or dying with Covid-19 was less and throughout the pandemic, they have very rarely needed hospital treatment. But the situation is expected to change during future waves.
Recently, government leaders, members of civil society, the UN, academia, the private sector from across the world participated in the virtual event ‘Lives in the Balance’ and spoke out about the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic on women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health, and unveiled targeted, time-bound commitments for focused action. The e-Summit was organised by The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) a multi-constituency partnership hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO), together with the CORE Group, the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children, and Adolescents, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Urging to adopt pro-equity strategies for children and adolescents to accelerated Covid-19 response and recovery, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance called for an extensive childhood vaccination against the infection across the world with special attention on in lower-income countries.
“Covid-19 has exacerbated underlying inequities, with vulnerable populations that are already living on the margins and are so often bereft of basic health services being hardest hit. The knock-on impact of the pandemic on childhood vaccination in lower-income countries has been devastating, with millions of children missing out on timely, life-saving immunisations. We look forward to highlighting the imperative of keeping equity at the center of the Covid response, and in particular addressing the urgent needs of women, children, and adolescents,” said Anuradha Gupta, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, while addressing the Summit.
Healthcare and government leaders emphasize targeted, time-bound commitments for focused action with concrete and measurable commitments to investment and policy change.
Helen Clark, Board Chair of PMNCH and former Prime Minister of New Zealand said, “Covid-19 is deepening and magnifying social inequalities compounded by ethnicity, gender, income, geography, and other factors. We must act now, not just to protect progress previously made, but also to work towards a world that is far more equitable than the one that existed before the pandemic.”
In addition to the ongoing and catastrophic direct impact of Covid-19 in many parts of the world, women, children, and adolescents are affected indirectly because of widespread disruptions to essential health, nutrition, and social services under lockdown conditions. This increases the risk of mortality and morbidity, including from treatable and preventable causes, denying the right to protection and care. A recent Global Financing Facility review of 36 partner countries showed there has been up to a 25 per cent drop in coverage of essential health interventions, hitting women and children the hardest. One-third of countries report interruptions to routine immunisation services due to lockdown conditions.
India now needs to build on its commitment made at global forums. The Indian government had committed $2 billion for 2020-2021 to strengthen all levels of care in response to the pandemic and to ensure essential public health functions with an enhanced focus on women, children and adolescents, and the most vulnerable. It is now time to act and fast to invest in healthcare systems for children and India needs to ramp up vaccine program to cover 18+ as soon as possible so that childhood vaccination get ample attention.