By Asmau Ahmad
A Virologist, Dr Patrick Dakum, has advised African countries that therapeutic interventions for COVID-19 should be specifically evaluated among children and adolescents with severe COVID-19.
Dakum who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria (IHVN), gave the advice in Abuja on Sunday when he featured at a forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
A study conducted by researchers at the institute and the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria showed that children and adolescents in Africa, hospitalised with COVID-19 often experienced high death rates.
The study was entitled: “Assessment of Clinical Outcomes among Children and Adolescents Hospitalised with COVID-19 in six sub-Saharan African Countries.”
It was conducted in collaboration with AFREhealth (the African Forum for Research and Education in Health), a consortium of cross-disciplinary health personnel across Africa.
The study revealed that African children less than a year old and with pre-existing non-communicable diseases were more likely to have poorer outcomes, including intensive care requirement and often die eventually.
The study collected data from 25 health facilities across Nigeria, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.
It sampled 469 African children and adolescents aged three months to 19 years hospitalised with COVID-19 between March and December 2020.
The study reported high overall mortality rate of 8.3 per cent, compared to one per cent or less, reported from Europe and North America.
Dakum explained that the high morbidity and mortality among hospitalised African children and adolescents with COVID-19 suggested that this population could be targeted for prompt COVID-19 vaccination when vaccines become available across the continent.
According to him, children and adolescents have previously always been considered to have less severe diseases and therefore, have not been prioritised in vaccination programmes.
“This study offers a new perspective on that notion,” he asserted.
The virologist noted that the study had therefore, called on governments across the continent to act fast, to prevent children from further having complications resulting to deaths as a result of the disease.
He said that the study had provided an important information about COVID-19 among African children that was not previously available.
“We now have evidence from multiple countries to show that African children also experienced severe COVID-19.
“They experience multi-system inflammatory syndrome, some require intensive care and some also die at much higher rates than outside Africa,” Dakum said.
While urging governments in the continent to act upon the study findings, he said this was to enable the continent protect children.
“We cannot leave children behind in our COVID-19 pandemic response.
“The data from Dr Sam-Agudu and AFREhealth collaborators puts science from Nigeria and the rest of Africa squarely on the map for pandemic-responsive research, particularly for young populations.
“We will continually work towards contributing to research discoveries in Nigeria, West Africa and beyond,” Dakum assured.