Case positivity rates of Covid-19 among children have skyrocketed in recent weeks, according to Ankara University Hospital Chief Physician Dr. Tanıl Kendirli.
Where throughout the pandemic case rates among children have remained relatively low, new variants and loosening of pandemic restrictions have caused those numbers to skyrocket. Now, nearly one in three children are testing positive for the virus and pediatric hospital facilities are running out of space to treat patients.
Throughout the pandemic, many have believed that the coronavirus did not affect children, or that their experience of the disease would not be severe. With earlier variants of the virus, this held to a certain degree to be true.
However, the Delta variant and newer, more contagious mutations of Covid-19 have challenged this assumption – now, children and young people are ending up in the hospital with severe cases of Covid-19 at rates not seen since the beginning of the outbreak. In Ankara, Dr. Kendirli has said that his hospital is strained.
“The areas reserved for Covid-19 patients in our hospital are full,” said Dr. Kendirli, “However, previously we did not have to allocate as many areas for pediatric patients as for adults. Currently, we have eight beds for newborn and pediatric infections. They are all full. We also have a positive patient in the emergency room waiting to be hospitalized.”
Over the course of the pandemic, Ankara University children’s hospital has admitted around 21,000 patients under the age of 18 who came for emergency treatment - 2,500 of those children tested positive for coronavirus, or an average of 11.8%. In the past few weeks, that rate has increased more than twofold, said Dr. Kendirli.
There are many factors that could be contributing to this rise in cases. Notably, this spike has been since the opening of schools in Turkey for the first time in two years.
Further, the summer holiday has ended and people are moving about much more, noted Dr. Kendirli. After a year and a half of coronavirus restrictions, people also have “pandemic fatigue” - mask compliance has lapsed and people are beginning to socialize at something closer to pre-pandemic levels.
Dr. Kendirli emphasized the importance of both vaccination and continued pandemic precautions - such as masking and social distance - to prevent the further spread of coronavirus among children and their families.
In his work, he has observed that unvaccinated children with unvaccinated families are much more affected by the virus. Now that vaccines are approved for young people, it is of utmost importance that they get the jab, he said.
“We must be vaccinated,” he said, “We now know that the vaccine is safe and effective for children, as well. Therefore, children should also be vaccinated.”