GOV’T: COVID cases among kids top 176K, with 466 deaths
There are more than 176,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases among children so far and pediatric experts believe the actual number could be higher because of a likely underreporting of infections.
The Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) said on Thursday that since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 until February this year, 48,411 children aged 19 and below have contracted the respiratory illness.
Data from the Department of Health (DOH) as of Aug. 8 indicated that this has risen rapidly since then to 176,540 recorded cases in this age group, with 466 recorded deaths.
In a media briefing organized by the PPS and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society of the Philippines (PIDSP), PIDSP president Dr. Mary Ann Bunyi noted the possibility that the national data still did not reflect the true impact of COVID-19 on children.
The DOH was unable to provide a monthly breakdown of cases and fatalities of pediatric COVID-19 patients, but Bunyi said generally, symptoms of COVID-19 among Filipino children were observed to be mild.
“In the Philippines, we still don’t have national data reflected on the true incidence of COVID-19 in Filipino children. Most of our data come from hospitalized, confirmed COVID-19,” she said, adding that the DOH data likely did not capture asymptomatic cases in children.
Bunyi said that of the available information from the health department, 40.2 percent of pediatric COVID-19 cases were from those in the 15-20 age group, while 23.8 percent were from 10-14 years old. Meanwhile, 17.4 percent were aged 5 to 9, and 18.5 percent were 4 years old and below.
“We are not getting the real picture as to the milder versions of COVID-19. Right now, I feel that we are getting an underreporting here,” Dr. Maria Carmela Kasala, PPS public relations committee chair, said in the same briefing.
However, Bunyi noted that more than 20 percent of hospitalized pediatric COVID-19 patients had underlying medical conditions.
Majority of recorded deaths in children were also aged 4 years and below, likely because their immune systems were not yet fully developed and had a harder time fighting off the virus, said PIDSP vice president Dr. Fatima Gimenez.
While several doctors have sounded the alarm over increasing cases of COVID-19 in children, the DOH earlier said the virus did not seem to have a worse effect on children.
However, in order to capture the true state of COVID-19 and how it affected children, Bunyi suggested that testing be expanded.
“In order to improve the landscape of COVID-19 among Filipino children, it will be helpful to capture children with mild respiratory symptoms by testing them for COVID-19, especially if there’s a background of exposure or if they live in high-risk transmission community,” Bunyi said, adding that local government units should ideally cover testing, since prohibitive costs discouraged parents from having their children tested.
The two groups earlier suggested that adults caring for children at home be prioritized in vaccination to provide a “cocoon effect” to protect children from COVID-19.
In June, the Food and Drug Administration amended the emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to allow its use for those aged 12-15 years. Previously, only those 16 and above could receive the vaccine. However, the DOH said then that the priority framework would still be followed and the “general consensus” of experts was that pediatric and adolescent vaccinations would be revisited once the country’s vaccine supply has stabilized.
New cases still high
Meantime, the DOH on Thursday said it recorded an additional 12,439 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total case count in the country to 1,700,363.
It was the second straight day the DOH recorded more than 12,000 cases and also the highest since April 10, when there were 12,674 new cases.
In its daily case bulletin, the DOH said there were 87,663 active cases, the highest since April 24. Of the active cases, the majority or 95.3 percent were mild.
In a separate advisory, the DOH said the latest whole genome sequencing conducted by the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center has detected an additional 177 cases of the more transmissible Delta variant.
Of these, 144 were local cases, three returning overseas Filipinos and 30 still undergoing verification. Majority or 90 of the 144 local cases had addresses in the National Capital Region, while 25 were from Calabarzon, 16 from Cagayan Valley, eight from Ilocos Region, two each from the Cordillera Administrative Region and Western Visayas, and one from Davao Region.
The 177 newly detected Delta variant cases brought the total for the more infectious virus strain in the country to 627. Of the latest batch, the DOH said 173 were tagged as recovered and one fatality.
In its case bulletin, the DOH also said the positivity rate has also risen to 22.5 percent, which meant 12,828 of the 57,016 tested on Tuesday were positive for the virus. At the height of the March-April surge fueled by the Alpha and Beta variants of the virus, the positivity rate reached 25 percent, or one in four tested positive.
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