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Impact of COVID-19 and its variants on indigenous Brazilian children

Published:January 28, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedn.2022.01.005

      Highlights

      • Indigenous children have at least twice the risk of death from Covid-19 compared to other ethnic groups in Brazil.
      • The highest risk of death is in children aged zero to two years and adolescents from the North and Northeast of Brazil.
      • The Family Health Strategy -FHS must guarantee biopsychosocial well-being, at indigenous Community.

      Abstract

      The indigenous population has suffered from the impacts caused by Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Especially children, who live in a reality of extreme poverty, low level of education and precarious health services close to their communities. Health professionals must look closely at indigenous children so that they can help them deal with the impact that the pandemic has brought with it.
      The Brazilian natives have suffered heavily from the impacts caused by Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Until January 4, 2022, according to the SESAI epidemiological bulletin, 851 deaths were confirmed from different Special Indigenous Health Districts (Distritos Sanitários Especiais Indígenas - DSEIs) registered across the country (
      • Brasil. Ministério da Saúde
      Boletim Epidemiológico da SESAI. [Em linha].
      ). The Ministry of Health expresses concern regarding the transmission of the virus to indigenous peoples and the impact that this infection is causing among traditional populations in Brazil, since the first confirmed cases. In the case of indigenous people, of Brazilian origin, they have different responses to new diseases, developing a higher curve concerning morbidity and lethality when compared to non-indigenous people (
      • Agência Brasil
      Agente de Saúde é a Primeira Indígena a ter Coronavírus Confirmado. [Em linha].
      ). Although Covid-19 has been found to affect all age groups, epidemiological studies show that infant mortality in the general public is lower when compared to the number of deaths among adults since the beginning of the pandemic. In contrast, indigenous children have at least twice the risk of death from Covid-19 compared to other ethnic groups in Brazil (
      • Brasil de Fato MG
      Crianças Indígenas Tiveram o Dobro de Risco de Morte Por Covid no Brasil, Diz Estudo. [Em linha].
      ).
      It is important to highlight that this fact is due to several issues, such as socioeconomic, as the indigenous population has a high level of poverty; educational, as the level of education is low; and demographic issues, as access to health services is distant and precarious (
      • Oliveira E.A.
      • Colosimo E.A.
      • Silva A.C.S.e.
      • Mak R.H.
      • Martelli D.B.
      • Silva L.R.
      • Oliveira M.C.L.
      Clinical characteristics and risk factors for death among hospitalised children and adolescents with COVID-19 in Brazil: An analysis of a nationwide database.
      ). Also according to the aforementioned author, the comparative risk of deaths among indigenous children and adolescents associated with Covid-19 was analyzed. The study showed that, on a larger scale, the highest risk of death is in children aged zero to two years and adolescents aged twelve to nineteen-year-olds from the North and Northeast of Brazil, among the poor macro-regions of these localities. Therefore, the socioeconomic relationship and social vulnerability of the native peoples strongly influence their health conditions. The considerable increase in the number of cases and the great power of transmission evidenced potentially fatal manifestations related to coronavirus diseases in children, such as the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C), which is a relationship between Covid-19 and other infections, leading to problems in different organs of the body in many children in the Brazilian territory (
      • OPAS - Organização Pan-Americana da Saúde
      OMS Publica Diretrizes Sobre Tratamento de Crianças Com Síndrome Inflamatória Multissistêmica Associada à Covid-19. [Em linha].
      ).
      MIS-C is diagnosed by examining each system depending on the child's complaint. These are biochemical tests performed in the laboratory and imaging. These services are not provided at the basic health units and, therefore, indigenous children are referred to the secondary care service. Due to the reality of extreme poverty, going in search of the service becomes practically unfeasible in communities, thus showing a sensitive disparity in the assistance service for indigenous children and children of other ethnicities (
      • Campos L.R.
      • Cardoso T.M.
      • de Freitas França Martinez J.C.
      • de Almeida R.G.
      • Silva R.M.
      • Fonseca A.R.
      • Sztajnbok F.R.
      Síndrome inflamatória multissistêmica pediátrica (MIS-C) temporariamente associada ao SARS-COV-2.
      ). In September 2021 the Pan American Health Organization exposed a significant increase related to admissions and deaths of children for Covid-19. One of the factors associated with these statistics is the fact that children are not eligible for vaccination and are more likely to acquire and transmit the disease (
      • OPAS - Organização Pan-Americana da Saúde
      Crianças e Adolescentes Estão Sendo Profundamente Impactados Pela Pandemia de COVID-19, Afirma a Diretora da Opas. [Em linha].
      ). According to
      • Agência Brasil
      Covid-19: Vacina Para Crianças Chega na Segunda Quinzena de Janeiro [Em linha].
      , the Ministry of Health intends to include all children aged 5 to 11 in the National Immunization Plan urgently in the second half of January 2022. Amidst so many difficulties faced by indigenous children with the Covid-19 infection, the vaccine may improve the health conditions not only of the child, but also of the entire community where they are inserted. Regarding the omicron variant of Covid-19, it is observed that, in other countries, it has not yet been determined whether omicron causes less serious illnesses in children than other variants of Covid-19. However, it is noteworthy that the transmissibility is extremely high and it is a factor that can increase the number of hospitalizations proportionally. Bringing to the indigenous reality, being an isolated population, the risk of omicron infection can be low. Nevertheless, unvaccinated children must continue to follow the measures strictly to protect and combat Covid-19 (
      • CNN Brasil
      Hospitalização de Crianças Dispara nos EUA e Cria Novos Temores da Ômicron. [Em linha].
      ).
      The pandemic has brought to light several vulnerabilities that indigenous communities face, so when the question of new variants of Covid-19 is brought up, the entire Family Health Strategy (FHS) team must be present to carry out health education. Advising that doing the basics as recommended by the Ministry of Health can save the lives of many indigenous children, as well as guiding parents to vaccinate their children as soon as they have the opportunity (
      • Milhorance F.
      Jovens Indígenas Sofrem Impacto Mais Agressivo do Coronavírus que a Média Brasileira na Mesma Faixa Etária. National Geographic.
      ). Finally, the Family Health Strategy -FHS must guarantee biopsychosocial well-being, the prevention of Covid-19 and its impacts, treating the indigenous community in a holistic perspective, also encompassing their cultural specificities, aiming to undertake effective and culturally competent care.

      Funding

      Centro Universitário Doutor Leão Sampaio – UNILEÃO , Juazeiro, Ceará, Brazil.

      Conflict of interests

      The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

      Acknowledgments

      Regional University of Cariri -URCA , Crato, Ceará, Brazil.

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