Help urged as virus robs children of parental care
More than 300 children have been orphaned by Covid-19 nationwide, it was yesterday reported as physicians also warned of the risks of vaccinating the young.
From Jan 1 to Sept 4, 142,870 children contracted the virus nationwide. Of these, 31,111 were in Bangkok, Supatcha Suthipol, director-general of the Department of Children and Youth, announced at an online briefing.
From July 27, marking the peak of the third outbreak, to Sept 4, a total of 369 children lost parents to the pandemic, including seven from Bangkok.
Pattani has seen the largest number of children orphaned, followed by Narathiwat, Yala, Ayutthaya and Kalasin.
Of this number, 180 children, or 48%, lost their fathers, while 151 or 40% lost their mothers. Three lost both parents and had someone to take care of them while 35 lost both parents and had no one to care for them, according to the department.
Ms Supatcha said the data had been compiled so assistance can be provided to them in a timely manner.
So far, financial aid has been offered to more than 9,000 children and their families troubled by Covid-19 since the beginning of the year. That help include welfare fund and provision of consumer and non-consumer goods.
In the longer term, the department is working to find families to adopt the orphans and securing educational opportunities for them by allowing them to access scholarships under the Equitable Education Fund (EEF) and Rajaprajanugroh Foundation Under Royal Patronage.
Meanwhile, Dr Somsak Lohlekha, president of the Royal College Paediatricians of Thailand (RCPT), warned that vaccinating young children might entail risks.
Although Covid-19 was infecting the young, with those in the 12-18 age bracket the most likely to catch the disease (38%), there have been no deaths from the virus among young children aged 6-12 , he said.
"We have to be mindful of what we put into children. Their immune response is different from adults," said the RCPT president.
No definitive dosages have been determined for children, and there have been reports of myocarditis among some younger age groups who received the vaccine in the US.
"There's no telling what effects, if at all, the vaccine will have on the heart muscles of young children. No one knows its long-term effects," he said.
Also, Sompong Jitradab, a specialist with the EEF, predicted that about 65,000 children are at risk of having to drop out of formal education by the end of the year if no assistance is forthcoming.
"Once the children became detached from the system, they may find it hard to return to mainstream education, potentially causing a host of social problems."