Home / Politics / Policy /  India on the doorstep of vaccinating children against covid-19

The government is preparing to vaccinate children against covid-19 in the next six weeks, starting with those who have co-morbidities, a top official said.

The country’s drug regulator has already approved Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D for those aged 12 years and above, and recommended granting emergency use authorization (EUA) for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for children as young as two.

“The vaccination would have started by now, but Zydus Cadila has not delivered the vaccine so far, and we are still waiting for the Drugs Controller General of India’s (DCGI) approval for Covaxin (for children). While we will start the vaccination with only approved vaccines, over five covid vaccines will also be available soon, which includes Biological E’s Corbevax and Novavax’s Covavax," said Dr N.K. Arora, chairperson, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI).

“In the first phase, we will vaccinate co-morbid children and, in the second phase, we will cover normal children," Arora said in an interview.

On 20 August, DCGI granted EUA to ZyCoV-D, India’s first indigenously developed DNA-based covid vaccine for anyone above 12. The three-dose vaccine produces the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, triggering an immune response. The subject expert committee (SEC) of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has recommended EUA for Covaxin for those above two years old.

Apart from these two, the government will also consider others, such as Pfizer’s double-dose vaccine recommended for those 12 years and above in the US and a single dose of the same vaccine in the UK. Similarly, Moderna’s vaccine has also been approved by the UK regulator for those above 12. More than half of India’s population is below 25. The 0-14-year age group constitutes 28.6% of the population.

Public health experts said vaccinating children is becoming crucial, considering new waves of the pandemic are emerging in several countries. “Children between the ages of 2 and 18 are the most vulnerable group at this point. Hence, getting them vaccinated at the earliest should be a priority," said Dr. Shrinivas Tambe, consultant neonatologist and paediatrician at Pune’s Jupiter Hospital.

To be sure, in the past year-and-a-half, children haven’t been affected significantly in India or in other nations by the pandemic. India has seen neither a surge in paediatric infections nor any spike in paediatric hospitalizations.

Experts, however, emphasize preventive measures, including child vaccination.

India’s cumulative covid-19 vaccination coverage has exceeded 1.13 billion. At least 8,865 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours.

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