Of seven children who died of Covid-19 between January 9 and January 12, six had severe co-morbidities, according to a report by the Delhi government.

In those four days, 97 Covid-positive patients died in Delhi’s hospitals, of whom only eight were fully vaccinated and 19 others had got one jab of the vaccine, highlighting the vulnerability of the unvaccinated during the ongoing Covid-19 surge, which has been fuelled by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Of the seven children, five were younger than 15. Vaccines in India are only available to those aged 15 and above.

The government report showed that of the seven children who died, three were infants (younger than a year-old). The first infant was previously with disseminated intravascular coagulation, a condition affecting the blood’s ability to clot. The child was admitted to Delhi government’s Lok Nayak Hospital on January 8, after testing Covid-19 positive on January 9. Doctors treating the infant said that the deterioration in her condition was primarily because of the pre-existing medical condition.

The second infant was also admitted to Lok Nayak Hospital on January 7 and was tested positive the next day. She died on January 10.

The Delhi government report said that the child had a “heart condition”, without revealing any more details of the ailment. The third infant was admitted to Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalaya on January 6 and tested positive the next day during the mandatory Covid test. The child, however, also had a pre-existing condition— thalassemia major, an inherited blood disorder characterised by less oxygen-carrying protein (haemoglobin) and fewer red blood cells in the body than normal.

Of the three others, a six-year-old girl who died on January 12 had a liver disease; a five-year-old patient, who also died on January 12 had a liver disease; and another 16-year-old child who died on January 12 was suffering from extra pulmonary tuberculosis.

The teenager was on anti-tuberculosis treatment and had severe anaemia and reportedly died of hypovolemic shock (a severe loss of fluid in the body).

“Technically, it would be misleading to term these as Covid-19 deaths because a majority of them [children] had pre-existing medical conditions. It would also create unnecessary panic among people,” said a senior health department official.

Health experts said comorbid conditions increase the risk of mortality during an infection.

“It is not just Omicron. Any infection among people with pre-existing conditions becomes more risky as compared to a healthy person. Plus, it is also important to note that children below the age of 15 are also the unvaccinated lot,” said Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant (internal medicine), Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.

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