With cases of a flu-like illness being reported among children in several districts of Karnataka, the state Health Department has decided to include pneumococcal conjugate vaccine under its universal immunisation programme from next week.
Health Commissioner Dr K V Trilok Chandra told The Indian Express that the step was taken as a precautionary measure to protect children in the state from flu-like illnesses including SARI (Severe Acute Respiratory Illness) and ILI (Influenza-like Illness), especially in anticipation of a third wave of Covid-19.
“Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine will also be administered this time under the universal immunisation programme scheduled to begin next week. Besides, we have increased surveillance among children under the Arogya Nandana programme and are looking into facilitating nutritional requirements to enhance immunity,” the Commissioner highlighted.
Meanwhile, the Health Department is closely observing the situation in 12 districts including Ballari, Yadgir, Chikkaballapur and Chitradurga where a considerable number of children have been admitted to hospitals with viral flu.
When asked about this, the Health Commissioner noted that the development was primarily “seasonal” and that a year-to-year comparison of such cases indicated that there was “nothing to panic” at present.
“While the cumulative number of flu-like illness cases observed in 2020 (across the year) was 14.43 lakh, the same to date this year is 6.8 lakh (from January to September). This indicates a dip in the number of such cases reported from across the state as we have not touched even half the number of what was reported across 2020 while we have completed nearly three quarters of 2021,” Chandra noted.
District-wise data collated by the Health Department indicated a reflection of the same trend, even in districts like Ballari and Chikkaballapur where paediatric beds are nearly full. For instance, while nearly 61,000 cases were reported cumulatively in Ballari last year till December, the same is at 33,000 to date this year. The same at Chikkaballapur, the native district of Health Minister K Sudhakar, is nearly 24,000 this year as opposed to the cumulative 86,000 such cases recorded across 2020.
A senior official from the Health Department linked to the Arogya Nandana child health screening programme said the prevalence of such flu-like illnesses was found to be under 0.1 per cent after screening of 40 lakh children was completed across the state.
Earlier, the minister had directed health officials to check whether there was any rise in the number of such infections among children. “It is a relief that 99.5 per cent of such patients are testing negative for Covid-19,” he had said Wednesday.
To date, over 3.22 lakh people aged up to 19 have contracted Covid-19 in the state, State War Room data indicated. This makes up nearly 11 per cent of the total cases recorded in the state since the pandemic broke out.