A study conducted by researchers at the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, has revealed high death rates among children and adolescents in Africa due to COVID-19.

A statement issued on the study in Abuja by IHVN External Relations and Communications Manager, Uzoma Florence, called on the Federal Government to act fast in order to prevent complications resulting in death as a result of COVID-19.

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 the African Forum for Research and Education in Health(AFREhealth), a consortium of cross-disciplinary health personnel across Africa.

The study revealed that African children, who were less than one-year-old and with pre-existing non-communicable diseases, were more likely to have poorer outcomes, including intensive care requirement and eventually death.

The study, according to the statement, collected data from 25 health facilities across Nigeria, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.

It said 469 African children and adolescents aged three months to 19 years and hospitalised for COVID-19 between March and December 2020 reported a high overall mortality rate of 8.3 per cent.

This, it added, was compared with one per cent or less reported for Europe and North America.

It quoted the Senior Technical Advisor for Paediatric and Adolescent HIV at the IHVN, Dr. Nadia Sam-Agudu, who was a co-first author of the publication, as saying the study had important information on COVID-19.

“This study provides important information about COVID-19 among African children that was not previously available at this scale.

“We now have evidence from multiple countries to show that African children also experience severe COVID-19.

”They experience multisystem inflammatory syndrome, some require intensive care, and some also die, and at much higher rates than outside Africa,” Sam-Agudu, who led the West Africa team, was quoted as saying.

The statement, which urged the Federal Government to act upon the findings of the study, also called for the expansion of vaccine approvals and procurements to include children.

“This is because variants emerging since our study’s completion have either caused more severe disease and/or more cases overall.

”We cannot leave children behind in the pandemic response,” it said.

The statement also quoted the Chief Executive Officer of IHVN, Dr. Patrick Dakum, as saying that ”this 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.”

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Prof. Alash’le Abimiku, the Executive Director of IHVN International Research Centre of Excellence, also said “the high impact paediatric COVID-19 findings of the collaborative research underscores the value of sustained investments in strong research institutions, collaborations and leadership in Nigeria and across Africa.

“We can generate rigorous local data to guide local, regional and international health policy and practice.”

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, on his part said ”the AFREhealth study findings show that COVID-19 affects children and can cause severe consequences.

“Thus, we seriously need to factor children into age-disaggregated COVID-19 disease surveillance and reporting and consider COVID-19 illness when they present to the hospital.

“Furthermore, the high in-hospital mortality rate reported indicates a need for investments in critical care for children in African settings.

“We need more of such rigorous multicenter studies to inform evidence-based policy-making in Nigeria and other African countries.”(NAN)