COVID-19 remains a threat to children’s health and development – ​​NationNews Barbados –

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Dr. Carissa F. Etienne. (general practitioner)

Washington – As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic reaches its third year in the Americas, millions of children are going without routine vaccinations, putting countries at risk of losing two decades of progress in vaccination, said the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Dr. Carissa Etienne warned.

“Countries are experiencing outbreaks of diseases that have been under control for years,” she told a news conference on Wednesday, mentioning diphtheria in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

This week, countries reported the highest number of weekly cases since the start of the pandemic – more than 8 million. Deaths also rose 37% from the previous week, reaching 18,000.

As more people of all ages become infected, the PAHO director pointed out that while hospitalizations and severe cases are more common among children with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes and asthma, most of these children recover.

At the same time, however, children continue to miss their regular doctor visits and many stay out of the classroom, putting their social, mental and physical well-being at risk.

“For some children, schools are safe havens to learn, socialize, receive mental health support and get a nutritious meal,” Dr. Etienne said.

The PAHO director called on parents and guardians to bring their children to routine medical appointments and urged countries to ensure these services are “open and available.”

“Countries need to see routine immunizations for what they are: essential. These services were essential before the pandemic, and they remain central to our COVID responses, so that our children are not at further risk,” she said.

Etienne also called on the Ministries of Health, Education and Social Protection to work together “to get as many of our children as possible back to school safely”.

PAHO has issued detailed guidelines to facilitate the return to in-person learning, and the director said that “by promoting mask-wearing and social distancing and ensuring adequate ventilation, countries can reopen schools safely”.

Regarding the vaccination of healthy children against COVID-19, the PAHO director stressed that countries must first “ensure that coverage among the groups most at risk of disease and deaths related to COVID-19 is high”.

While twelve countries and territories in the Americas have already met WHO’s 70% vaccination target, many, particularly in the Caribbean, still have low coverage among at-risk groups such as the elderly and workers. health.

However, in countries where “vulnerable groups have already been protected and additional vaccine supplies may be available, countries should consider the benefits of vaccinating children to further reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission.”

The PAHO Director also called on countries to prioritize the collection of localized data on COVID-19.

“Now more than ever, we need data on how this virus affects different ages, genders, groups and geographies,” she said. This will allow countries to identify gaps and target resources to those most in need.

Regarding the COVID-19 situation in the region, in the Caribbean, significant outbreaks of infections have been reported in Haiti and Martinique. (CMC)

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