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Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram

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While children do not make up a large percentage of current COVID-19 hospitalisations, trends show that those with existing health conditions are winding up severely ill in hospitals.

As the Omicron variant, which does not spare children like initials strains, continues to spread, the Ministry of Health reported another pediatric case yesterday. At the ministry’s COVID-19 update, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram did not say what strain the last case contracted. However, it takes the tally of young children in the parallel healthcare system to five: one in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), one in the High Dependency Unity (HDU) and three receiving ward level care.

Parasram noted that children with no known history of health issues are getting sick enough to require hospital care. And with Omicron cases growing, he pointed to the United States and the United Kingdom.

“When we look to the United States and the UK for example, especially with this last variant and the last surge that they had, we see the pediatric hospitals being full. I would just want to offer a word of caution to anyone, any parent and their children alike, that they need to continue doing what they are doing in terms of following the guidelines as best as you can with your children. Keep them as safe as possible,” Parasram said.

Just over 55 per cent of the eligible 12-18 age group took their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that the World Health Organisation approved for teenagers. The Ministry of Health ordered a shipment of the pediatric version for ages five-11 as it awaits World Health Organisation (WHO) Emergency Use Approval. Parasram is urging parents to make use of them when they arrive.

Meanwhile, Director of Women’s Health Dr Adesh Sirjusingh reported that COVID-19 had increased maternal deaths over the last three years. Maternal mortality refers to a woman’s death during pregnancy or 42 days after due to a related cause. He said pregnancy increases the risk of severe COVID-19, and so far, there are six COVID-19-related maternal deaths for the pandemic.

During the five years before COVID-19, T&T recorded three to four maternal deaths annually. One mother died from COVID-19 related complications after giving birth last week, the first for 2022, he reiterated.

“For the entire year of 2021, we had eight maternal deaths. Of those, five were ascribed to having co-existing COVID-19. The data has already been released and they were all unvaccinated. For this year, we have already reported one maternal death … and this was an unvaccinated patient,” Sirjusingh said.

Up to January 14, the ministry recorded 1,181 pregnant women who developed COVID-19. In January alone there were 22 confirmed cases. In 2021, there were 1101 and 58 in 2020.

Sirjusingh said most of these women acquired COVID-19 via community transmission. Most, especially those who were critically ill, were unvaccinated, he noted.

“These patients are getting infected in their homes, when they are out doing their normal business, as well as in their workplaces. Of these persons, two per cent have been hospitalised. A smaller number ended up in the High Dependency Unit. Some went to the Intensive Care Unit: we actually have patients there now. Since the start of this year, we have had one additional maternal death in the postpartum period added to the five that I would have mentioned before.”

He confirmed that one baby died from prematurity in December because of COVID-19. Doctors reported that it was a mother-child transmission after early delivery.

There were also six cases of mother-child transmission reported, one resulting in a stillbirth. Sirjusingh said preterm birth was a more common complication of COVID-19 during pregnancy. The ministry is still considering boosters for pregnant women at the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group.

In August 2021, the ministry approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant women in their second and third trimesters. In June 2021, it approved the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinopharm vaccines for breastfeeding mothers. As of January 17, the ministry recorded 1,084 pregnant women starting their vaccination, with 675 taking their first dose before pregnancy and completing their regiment during pregnancy.