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Nearly 30 percent of recent Covid-19 cases in SVG are persons under 19

Covid-19 in under-19s worrying

Nearly 30 percent of recent Covid-19 cases in SVG are persons under 19

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Almost 30 percent of COVID-19 cases recorded in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) between April 1 and May 14, 2021 were in persons under the age of 19.

This statistic was one of the main points made at a press conference held by the Ministry of Health this week to update the nation on ongoing public health concerns.  

It also comes as local health authorities remind Vincentians of the need for continued mask wearing and physical distancing – areas that St Clair ‘Jimmy’ Prince, the minister of health said were being ignored by Vincentians in recent times, resulting in a consistent increase in the positivity rate and absolute COVID-19 numbers.

“We’ve been given the impression worldwide that older people are more at risk and younger people don’t have to worry too much but we have to change that mindset,” he said on Tuesday afternoon.  

According to the statistics, 48 cases or 27 per cent of COVID19 cases recorded in SVG between April 1 and May 14, 2021 are in persons 18 years and younger; which includes children as young as one-month-old having been infected.

On Thursday, the ministry of health told SEARCHLIGHT that the trend of a higher than usual number of children testing positive for COVID19 continued throughout May, with persons between the ages of 0 and 18 accounting for 25 per cent of cases last month.

Other figures provided at Tuesday’s press conference indicate that of the current active cases, three of them were in school hubs; two of which were children.

Prince said his ministry was still investigating whether there were other cases in the school hubs as “we have suspicions that there are others in these hubs”.  

Dr Mishka Duncan-Adams, senior registrar attached the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital delivered a presentation on the development, noting that there has been a peak of positive cases that are paediatric since April 2021 after the explosive eruption at La Soufriere.

The health official said some of this may be attributed to shelters but added that persons have been letting their guards down as it relates to the various mitigation measures in place to prevent from contracting the virus.

Statistics out of the US estimate that about 14 per cent of children would be infected with COVID19. This is 13 per cent less than what is being reported in SVG.

“But what is shown is that approximately one per cent of persons infected who are children, can die so children are still at risk of dying even though most of these children may have a premorbid condition,” Duncan-Adams said. “Even though persons may not die from coronavirus, persons are at risk of having complications related to the disease that may merit being hospitalised. In children specifically, they can also be affected…”

The hospital’s senior registrar said complications can range from a mild infection to a COVID pneumonia.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome – which affects the nerves and causes weakness in the lower extremities is another complication that can result in the affected person being intubated in an ICU setting.

Duncan-Adams also highlighted another illness that specifically affects children; Multi Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS).

“…there is a relation to being infected with COVID…it’s actually very life threatening and it can actually affect children to the point where they can die,” she said.

The medical doctor also noted that in many cases, the children are not necessarily infected at the time they exhibit the syndrome, but may have had a past COVID infection that was asymptomatic, only to exhibit symptoms weeks later, which include fever, shortness of breath, kidney damage, brain injury, diarrhoea, vomiting and inflammation of the heart tissues.

“All of this can lead to death in children. Luckily, we have not seen any cases in St Vincent and there are few cases reported worldwide, but it’s something that is specific to the paediatric population, it’s something that is life threatening and it is related to COVID…the paediatric age range is particular because of the fact that children under 18 are not indicated to be vaccinated as yet,” Duncan-Adams said.

Vaccines currently authorised in SVG do not allow for persons under 18 to be vaccinated.

The registrar stressed the importance of persons acting responsibly to protect themselves in an extended effort to protect the children of the nation.

She also encouraged parents to teach their children about the specific protocols in place to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

Duncan-Adams urged persons not to relax on the various mitigating measures and to foster a habit of testing, particularly in cases where a parent or child may be experiencing flu-like symptoms.

“If you have a child that is sick or has a fever, please keep your child at home, avoid social gatherings…” the hospital registrar said.

Dr Simone Keizer-Beache, the chief medical officer said on Tuesday that local health authorities were actively seeking to obtain Pfizer vaccines, which have specifically been approved for use in the paediatric population.

As at June 2, SVG had a total of 206 active cases. Twelve persons have died with COVID19 and there have been a total of 1841 recoveries.

Since March 2020, SVG has recorded 2059 cases.

More than 20,000 people have received at least one shot of the Covid19 vaccine locally, with 6432 people being fully vaccinated so far.