Gauteng has entered the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections. These infections are driven by a new variant, resulting in an increasing number of infections among children under the age of five. This has been concerning for health authorities.
National Institute for Communicable Diseases’ (NICD) Dr Waasila Jassat revealed that an increased number of children under the age of five are testing positive for Covid-19. She says the under five age category is only second to the over 60 age category in terms of hospital admissions in Gauteng.
Jassat who was speaking during the Department of Heath's weekly briefing said that the third wave saw an increase in infections among younger members of the country's population. This trend is continuing during the fourth wave
She said, “Just anecdotally, a paediatrician in a Tshwane hospital shared with us that all the children that were admitted from 12 to 18 years old were not vaccinated even though they were eligible. And that the younger children less than 12 who are not eligible for vaccination, none of the parents except for three were vaccinated.”
Jassat revealed that in Tshwane, more than 100 hospital admissions of children under the age of four years old in the first two weeks of the current wave. This is concerning as children under that age of twelve are not eligible to receive Covid-19 vaccines.
Head of Paediatrics at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital Professor Sithembiso Velaphi says on average between 18 and 20 children are admitted to the hospital per day. He says the number is consistent with the amount for children who were admitted to hospital before the pandemic.
However, Velaphi revealed that the hospital tests every admitted patient, including children, for Covid-19 when they come to hospital. This has seen an increased number of children testing positive for Covid-19. He explained that the increased number of children testing positive for the virus is a causal effect of increased testing.
Velaphi says this is concerning because patients have to be seperated to combat the spread of the virus. He explained that all babies would normally be grouped together, however now those who are positive for Covid-19 have to be separated from those who are negative.
He says if the current trend continues, the hospital will not only need more space, but also more staff to provide care to patients.
Approximately 591 022 adolescents have received a jab of the of Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa. Currently children under the age of 17 are permitted to receive one dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in the country.