Covid in children mostly mild, but good to be prepared: WHO's Soumya Swaminathan
- The effect of the coronavirus disease among children had been mostly mild and the severity much less than that in the adult population, said World Health Organization (WHO) chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminthan, even as she stressed the importance of having a well-developed paediatric infrastructure.
Citing sero surveys done by other countries, the top doctor said in an interview children can get infected and transmit the infection, but it would still be very mild in most cases. “There is a small percentage that gets sick and get inflammatory complications and few will die, but much much less than the adult population,” she added.
“But it is good to prepare,” she said, adding hospitals should remain prepared for paediatric admissions and with paediatric intensive care units, whose utility would serve the health system in many ways for other illnesses children have. “We should not panic about thousands of children crowding into ICUs," she said.
‘Remdesivir has marginal benefits, expensive’
Speaking about antiviral drug Remdesivir that has been widely used to treat coronavirus (Covid-19), the WHO chief scientist said it had “marginal benefits” for infected patients who were not sick enough to be on ventilator and it did not reduce mortality rates.
She said a solidarity trial showed Remdesivir did not reduce mortality, but may have a marginal benefit in a subgroup of patients who were ill enough to need oxygen but not as severe to be on ventilation.
Dr Swaminathan also said the drug did not work very well for either moderately or severely ill patients, besides being very expensive. “Drugs like Dexamethasone and Oxygen are the two essential ones that save lives,” the top doctor said.
A solidarity trial conducted last year by the public health body had found that Remdesivir, Hydroxychloroquine, Lopinavir/Ritonavir and Interferon had little or no effect in helping Covid-19 patients combat the infection. Final results of this trial are expected to come out towards the end of August.
At the height of the second wave earlier this year, India had witnessed a shortage of Remdesivir as families of those infected lined up for hours to buy vials of the drug. India stopped importing Remdesivir in early April to help deal with domestic shortage.
The drug was originally developed to treat Hepatitis C and was also tested as a possible treatment for Ebola. On November 20, 2020, WHO asked countries to stop recommending it, insisting that the drug offered “small and uncertain benefits” outweighed by the “possibility of important harms”.