1,300 babies have died from the virus in Brazil
A documentary by the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) has revealed the dire Covid19 situation facing children in Brazil following a surge in Covid19 cases across the globe.
More than a year into the pandemic, deaths in Brazil are now at their peak.
According to the documentary, despite the overwhelming evidence that Covid-19 rarely kills young children, in Brazil 1,300 babies have died from the virus.
One doctor refused to test Jessika Ricarte’s one-year-old son for Covid, saying his symptoms did not fit the profile of the virus. Two months later he died of complications from the disease.
After two years of trying, and failed fertility treatments, teacher Jessika Ricarte had all but given up on having a family. Then she fell pregnant with Lucas.
The Doctor told Jessika that Covid-19 was rare in children, gave her some antibiotics and sent her home. Despite her misgivings, there was no option to have Lucas tested privately at the time.
Jessika says that some of his symptoms dissipated at the end of his 10-day antibiotics course, but the tiredness remained – as did her concerns about coronavirus.
Most children affected by Covid have comorbidities – existing conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease – or are overweight, according to Lohanna Tavares, a paediatric infectologist at Albert Sabin Children’s Hospital in Fortaleza, the state capital.
But that wasn’t the case with Lucas.
Experts say the sheer number of Covid cases in the country – the second-highest number in the world – have increased the likelihood that Brazil’s babies and young children are affected.
Such a high infection rate has overwhelmed Brazil’s entire health care system. Across the country, oxygen supplies are dwindling, there is a shortage of basic medicines and in many ICUs across the country there are simply no more beds.
There is a misconception that children are at zero risk for Covid, says Dr Fatima Marinho, who is also a senior adviser to the international health NGO Vital Strategies. Marinho’s research has found that a shockingly high number of children and babies have been affected by the virus.
Between February 2020 and 15 March 2021, Covid-19 killed at least 852 of Brazil’s children up to the age of nine, including 518 babies under one year old, according to figures from the Brazilian Ministry of Health. But Dr Marinho estimates that more than twice this number of children died of Covid. A serious problem of underreporting due to lack of Covid testing is bringing the numbers down, she says.
Dr Marinho calculated the excess of deaths by unspecified acute respiratory syndrome during the pandemic, and found that there were 10 times more deaths by unexplained respiratory syndrome than in previous years. By adding these numbers, she estimates that the virus in fact killed 2,060 children under nine years old, including 1,302 babies.
Dr Marinho says that for children often the Covid diagnosis comes too late, when they are already seriously ill and this is not just because there is little testing capacity, but also because it is easier to miss, or misdiagnose, the symptoms of children suffering from Covid-19, as the disease tends to present differently in younger people.