The new coronavirus variant is spreading faster than ever in Hungary. As a result, the country is facing the worst months of the pandemic. In addition, the new, more dangerous Covid strain poses a much greater threat to children and adolescents, as more and more of them are in need of hospital care. Doctors and health experts, meanwhile, warn that it would be important both for the protection of children and for the general population to start vaccinating them.
During the first and second waves of the coronavirus pandemic, we saw that elderly people and those with underlying illnesses were the ones most at risk from the coronavirus, but since then the U.K variant of the virus has changed this.
A 14-year-old asthmatic girl died after contracting coronavirus, according to Friday’s official coronavirus report. She is currently the youngest victim of the pandemic in Hungary.
Unfortunately, however, she is not the only minor who was unable to fight off the illness caused by the virus. Two 16-year-old girls also lost their lives in March.
Meanwhile, there is an increasing number of cases among children and adolescents.
“There are two or three times as many children in hospital as in earlier stages of the pandemic,” György Velkey, general director of Bethesda Children’s Hospital, told ATV News.
When the epidemic started, doctors saw that it posed less danger to children. But the infection can no longer be considered trivial for them anymore, no matter how rare the serious illness experienced by adults among children is, Velkey highlighted.
According to the hospital director, there are cases where non-invasive ventilation is required, and in many instances, serious complications occur weeks after contracting the virus.
“These children often require ICU treatment and, in some cases, temporal mechanical ventilation, but so far we managed to save them after a few days of fighting,” Velkey said.
Lingering symptoms, often called “long Covid,” can also occur among children and can last for weeks or even months.
Ferenc Fekete, the head of department at Heim Pál National Institute of Pediatrics, shared his similar experience with novekedes.hu.
Although the rate of coronavirus infections among children is still lower than among adults, the trend is also unfavorable in childhood, says Fekete. Even few weeks and months old babies are being hospitalized with coronavirus.
Fekete said that in the first wave last spring, only a handful of children had been admitted because of Covid-19. The second wave was somewhat “more powerful.” But now “there are 2-week, 6-week, 3-month-old babies in the hospital, even though the most serious symptoms are more common in adolescents.
While Hungary is trying to protect its adult population with vaccines, inoculating children is not yet possible. Several pharmaceutical companies are doing clinical trials in adolescents or young children but most of them have not yet concluded.
However, experts warn that vaccinating youngsters as soon as possible would be important for several reasons.
“Achieving complete herd immunity is impossible without vaccinating children,” says pediatrician György Póta.
Vaccinating children would not only serve to protect them, but would also be important for the protection of the population.
According to the doctor, if every citizen over the age of 18 receives the vaccine, but children do not- as they make up 20 percent of the population- that leads to a vaccination rate of only 80 percent.
Vaccination of the young generations is also an important issue because primary schools and kindergartens will open next week in Hungary, and many fear that it could even accelerate the pace of the epidemic.
Featured photo illustration by Tamás Kovács/MTI