NITAG recommends wearing double masks for better protection as country deals with Delta Variant

Vaccination for children may roll out from July if vaccines come in time

The country is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, with the newer mutation of the novel coronavirus continuing to outsmart efforts to control its spread. Children in the country are contracting the infection more now than in the past.

As per the data compiled by the Ministry of Health (MoH), two weeks ago, five children below one year, 11 children aged between two to three years, 10 children aged between four to five years and 96 children aged between six to 18 years old contracted the infection. A total of 122 children have contracted the infection.

Dr Sonam Wangchuk of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) said most cases that are detected in the country are Delta Variant. Currently, COVID-19 patients who are not vaccinated are suffering with the mild symptoms. Otherwise, all are doing fine since almost all the COVID-19 patients were vaccinated with the first jab.

Dr Sonam Wangchuk explained that people who are vaccinated already have developed the antibodies. This means that the moment a person is infected, the infection triggers the immune response, and the antibody will neutralize the virus and the viral load will go down, and a vaccinated person will be infected but the severity will not be there.

Some COVID-19 patients who came from India and are not vaccinated were severely ill. Dr Sonam said the vaccination at the right time helped prevent dire situation that is seen in neighboring countries.

Since the Delta Variant infects more children, that is why TAG team has been doing robust surveillance, and every fortnight children are tested with RT-PCR and Antigen. There are children who contracted the infection but they are not serious. Although children are not vaccinated and have contracted infections, somehow, they are not serious, and the reason is still unknown.

The government might roll out the vaccines to children aged between 12 years to 17 along with a second dose of AstraZeneca vaccine to the eligible population within July. If not Pfizer vaccines, the government will try to procure Moderna vaccines for children.

As per the international news, the highly contagious Delta Variant is the fastest and fittest coronavirus strain yet, and it will “pick off” the most vulnerable people, especially in places with low COVID-19 vaccination rates, World Health Organization officials warned.

The variant appears to be more transmissible across all age groups and that includes children.

Delta has now spread to 92 countries. Current vaccines were designed for earlier versions of coronavirus, but scientists believe they should work, albeit potentially less well.

Dr Sonam Wangchuk said Bhutan follows containment protocol very strictly so there are not many cases as of now, and also tries its best to interrupt the community transmission.

As the Delta Variant is more transmissible, NITAG recommended three things. They recommend wearing double masks in the outbreak areas and in the crowds. Physical distancing of two meters, and as far as possible, people should avoid gathering and capacity should be less than 50 percent with good ventilation system. The new added measures should be followed, as the older ways may not work now.

There are a lot of cases detected in the country because people still follow the old safety measures. Earlier it was fine because the virus was not transmissible, but now it is more transmissible and the same way approach will not work. People should be more careful and stringently follow COVID-19 protocols more than ever before.

He said low risk places, like Thimphu and Paro have not detected any cases from the community, but if in case positive cases are detected, then there will be a huge outbreak. The community transmission is ongoing because the people are not following the COVID-19 protocols. It is known that even the people in the red building are seen mixing around. That is why they are picking up more infection. People need to understand that now the Delta Variant is highly transmissible and they should avoid gathering and minimize contact, Dr Sonam Wangchuk said.

Meanwhile, a new Delta Plus Coronavirus Variant has been identified. The study on the new variant is in the early stages to conclude on its transmissibility and resistance to the vaccine. Dr Sonam Wangchuk said there is no evidence that Delta Plus Variant is more severe, but it is just a concern and NITAG will keep a look out for it as a precaution. Three countries have already reported the Delta Plus Variant, and therefore, all countries are taking maximum precautions.

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