Battered by COVID since the beginning of the pandemic last year, the Maharashtra government does not want to take chances as it readies for a possible third wave that may impact children, State Health Minister Rajesh Tope said on Friday (May 7).
Tope said the state is establishing child COVID centres and a paediatric task force to deal with a possible crisis situation. Maharashtra is extra cautious because its total infection tally is nearing 50 lakh now — the highest in the country — with more than 50,000 cases being reported every day for the past few weeks. So far, more than 70,000 people have died due to COVID in the state.
Tope said, “The third COVID wave could be deadly for children below the age of 18. We are setting up child COVID care centres because children need different ventilator beds and other medical equipment. We may also have to arrange for their mothers to be with them.”
A pediatric task force will look into all these requirements, said Tope, adding that all these requirements were discussed in a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray recently.
The Maharashtra government is extra cautious because the first and second waves had caught the state health machinery napping. The Thackeray government decided to take proactive measures this time after the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Union government, K Vijay Raghavan, said the third wave of the virus is inevitable.
“Phase three is inevitable given the higher levels of circulating virus, but it is not clear on what time-scale this phase three will occur. We should be prepared for new waves,” Raghavan had said a few days back.
The first wave affected the elderly population while the second wave hit youngsters the most. The third wave is likely to be deadly for children, say experts.
At present, there are no vaccines for children. Canada and the US have approved Pfizer’s vaccine for children above the age of 12.