The Ministry of Health is witnessing an uptick in the number of paediatric COVID-19 cases, three of which are currently warded at hospital and are “severely ill.”
The revelation came from the ministry’s Principal Medical Officer of Health Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards on Saturday during the Prime Minister’s COVID-19 press conference.
“We have had a slight uptick in the number of paediatric cases, especially in the South West RHA (Regional Health Authority) which covers San Fernando and the southern region. There are currently three severely ill children that are hospitalised as confirmed COVID positive cases,” she said.
“This is a new development that we have noticed.”
Abdool-Richards was unable to release further information on the children due to patient confidentiality. She said they were among 49 patients who are currently in a similar condition.
Questioned by Guardian Media, she revealed that these children were being tested for the presence of the more highly transmissible Delta variant. The required genomic sequencing is conducted by the University of the West Indies (UWI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. The team is led by Professor of Molecular Biology and Virology Christine Carrington.
The Delta variant first identified in India in December is not only more highly transmissible, but there are also indications that it is deadlier than the original Wuhan strain. Worryingly, evidence out of countries like the United States where this variant is the predominant strain in circulation signals an increase in paediatric cases and disease severity. That means more children are being infected and are getting sicker.
The country confirmed its first cases of the Delta variant on Thursday in two unvaccinated nationals who recently returned to the country. But while these were imported cases and by official accounts are contained, health officials have not ruled out the possibility of the variant currently circulating among the population yet to be detected.
PM: Get your children vaccinated
This is why Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Saturday appealed to parents to get their children vaccinated when the Ministry of Education begins inoculating secondary school students.
“You don’t want to be the parent who refused the vaccination that’s available for free and then one day you’re told that your child is positive, the child responds badly, is in an ICU and then you start asking what have I done,” he said.
“Please parents, don’t be that parent.”
The PM said we, as citizens, could do better.”The ball is in your court,” he added.
Doses of Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty will only be administered to children between 12 and 18 when the programme begins. While the Government is yet to administer its first dose to a child, research shows that fully vaccinated primary contacts of children have a less likely chance of passing the virus on to them. This means if all the adults in a child’s household is fully vaccinated, their risk of contracting COVID-19 is significantly reduced.
Vaccine uptake among nurses, law enforcement low
Dr Rowley also expressed disappointment that vaccine uptake among key public services remained low. He said only 50 per cent of nurses were vaccinated, 35 per cent of prison officers, 25 per cent of the Defence Force, and 43 per cent of the police service. He also said only 20 per cent of the prison population was vaccinated.
The PM appealed to guilty religious leaders to stop misleading the population on the vaccines.
“You see all these people from pulpits who telling people that there is something religiously wrong with these vaccines, stop misleading the population of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.