Over the last three months, 14 babies under one year have contracted COVID-19 and 11 of them were younger than three months old.
The startling revelation of the figures has prompted the Minister of Health and the Paediatric Society of Trinidad and Tobago to again urge adults to get vaccinated in order to help reduce the risk of transmitting the disease to children, since they cannot access vaccines.
The eye-opening information came from Minister Terrence Deyalsingh during yesterday’s Ministry of Health COVID-19 virtual media conference.
Deyalsingh explained that the babies were infected by their parents, who were unvaccinated.
“These toddlers are not going out to work, they are not going here, they are not going there. The virus is basically coming home and meeting them and sending them into the hospital,” the Minister said.
“On examination, 50 per cent of the parents are in fact COVID-positive and we don’t have the hard number yet but the vast majority (of parents)—is what we have been explaining to the country - unvaccinated.”
There are at least 3,400 children under the age of 19 to be infected with COVID-19 locally to date, of which four have lost their lives to the disease, he said.
Last Saturday, the Ministry revealed that a male child was among 28 people who had died from COVID-19 that day.
Children who survive COVID-19 are also at risk of developing Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). So far, at least 55 children locally have developed MIS-C.
MIS-C is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.
In August, Minister Deyalsingh spoke about the then increasing number of children contracting COVID. At that time, the figure moved from three in hospital to eight in just the space of a week.
Back then, Deyalsingh admonished “partying parents” for spreading COVID-19 to their children, who in some instances had severe cases of the disease. He also said then that vaccination was needed to better protect the nation’s young. He repeated that plea yesterday, saying vaccination is a duty everyone has as part of society.
“If you don’t want to be vaccinated - as I said, I may not agree with the position but I respect it - but you now have a duty to be even more careful with hand-washing, masking and keeping away from people. That is your duty now,” Deyalsingh said.
Contacted on the issue yesterday, Paediatric Society president Dr Virendra Singh said while the incidence of death among the demographic is lower, it’s still dangerous for babies to contract the disease - especially because of MIS-C.
“From the data we have out there so far, is that children tend to get less severe disease but children still do get a spectrum of severe disease (such) as MIS-C and some of the neurological disease that we are seeing are local evidence that children have been affected by severe COVID-19,” Singh said.
Dr Singh said those around children who can be vaccinated must do so to reduce the risk of transmitting the disease to them.
“Vaccination is a way to avoid: 1. contracting 2. severe and 3. spreading the disease somewhat,” he said.
Dr Singh said precautions must be taken when the child is interacting with someone they are not typically in contact with.
“People who...are going to visit a newborn or a relative who just gave birth to a child, or visit relatives who just have unvaccinatable populations (children under 12) in the house, they should ensure that they themselves are vaccinated and take the necessary precautions because children 0 to 12 years old are just as susceptible to COVID,” Dr Singh said.
The public health guidelines, such as mask-wearing, social distancing and hand washing, must also be strictly adhered to regardless of vaccination status, he said.