Tue | Oct 19, 2021

Letter of the Day | Lack of information on COVID-19 and children is concerning

Published:Friday | September 24, 2021 | 12:05 AM


We are a group of concerned citizens who have noticed to date, the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW), the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) and the Government of Jamaica have not been forthcoming with information related to the impact of COVID-19 on the health of children. Jamaica is currently in the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and there is a sharp increase in cases of children who have contracted COVID-19, are critically ill and being hospitalised. Available information indicates that the Delta strain may have a more significant impact on children than previously identified strains.

To appropriately address the concern of COVID-19’s impact on children, the Government should address the following issues immediately:

· Expand the MOEYI’s focus beyond the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 in schools to include providing counselling to children who have lost family members to COVID-19 and children with social and emotional challenges due to the pandemic.

· Suspend face-to-face classes pending development of a concrete safety plan which includes:

– Improved ventilation via enhanced air purification and filtering in labs and classrooms

– Free asymptomatic rapid testing for children and families

– Base-line testing before return to in-person classes

– For schools and daycares monitored by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, 65% vaccination of students is not enough. All staff should be vaccinated, or regular testing required

– Provision of vaccinations on-site at schools

– Class size should be reduced with a hybrid learning system

– Mandatory training of school nurses in basic life support, PPE, and vaccinations

· The Ministry of Health and Wellness should take the following steps:

– Provide proper isolation facilities meeting the required spacing recommendations and with negative air.

– Turnaround time for test results have improved but they still need to be quicker, especially for rural areas.

– Each hospital must have dedicated COVID-19 beds for children.

– An electronic reporting system for COVID-19 cases and Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).

· Publish the data compiled in the last 18 months about COVID-19 and children to the public and distinguish the data about COVID in children from COVID in adults in regular press conferences by MOHW. It is important that the data provided is for children, 17 years and under. Presentations should answer the following questions:

– What is the child case fatality rate for the third wave in comparison to the first two waves?

– How is COVID-19 affecting the medical treatment of children with non-COVID conditions?

– In the current wave:

1. How many children have been confirmed with COVID-19? How does this compare to the first and second waves?

2. How many children have died from COVID-19? Are there any deaths of children under investigation?

3. How many children have been admitted to public hospitals with COVID-19? How does this compare to prior trends?

4. Provide a breakdown of COVID-19 cases in children by age and status (moderately ill, critically ill and severely ill).

– What hospitals are accepting child COVID cases? What are the capacities of each institution for child COVID cases, including the number of general beds, isolation beds, ICU beds, oxygen support, respiratory support, and life support?

– What staffing measures have been implemented to facilitate the increase in COVID’s impact on children? How many doctors and paediatric and critical care nurses are on staff? What is the ratio of doctors to child patients?

– What projections are there for the trend in COVID-19 cases and complications in children for the rest of 2021?

· Provide public health education for parents, guardians, families, teachers, etc, about symptoms of and warning signs for COVID-19 infections in children and what to do when these are observed.

The provision of information about the critical issue of children’s health and the impact of COVID-19 in Jamaica has been ignored for far too long, and we urge the Government of Jamaica to provide information on how our children are faring in these times and the way forward for our nation’s children.