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India on Tuesday opened up covid-19 vaccines for children as young as five, in a relief for millions of parents at a time school reopenings have coincided with a rise in infections. 

The drug regulator has approved Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for children aged 6-12 and Biological E.’s Corbevax for those aged 5-11, Union health minister Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya tweeted. The regulator also approved Cadila’s ZyCoV-D for children above 12, the minister said. 

“India’s fight against covid is now stronger. CDSCO has given restricted emergency use authorization for vaccination of children. Covaxin for children in the age group of 6-12 years, Corbevax for 5-12 years of age, two doses of 2 doses of ‘ZyCoV-D above 12 years of age," the minister tweeted. CDSCO stands for Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, India’s apex drug regulatory body.

All approvals are in the restricted emergency use authorization (EUA) category, just as it is for every other covid-19 vaccine in use currently.

As of now, Corbevax is administered for children aged 12-14, while Serum Institute’s Covovax is used for the 12-17 group. India has so far administered over 27 million first doses for children aged 12-14. 

Biological E has supplied over 96 million doses of Corbevax to the government, chief operating officer Lakshminarayana Neti said. “As on 26 April, 27 million children’s have received their first dose and 3.7 million children have been administered the second dose for the age group 12-14 years," he said.

“To ensure that the vaccination programme for children goes forward as planned, the company has kept 300 million doses of vaccine in its stock. We hope this will enable all school-going children to get vaccinated," Neti said. 

Doctors and child specialists welcomed the decision.

“It’s good news because parents were worried for their children. The Omicron wave probably affected more children from 4-12 years of age as many children went to school and got infected. The immunogenicity and safety data of these vaccines are good. Kids should get vaccinated. Vaccination of kids will boost up the confidence of family and parents for the safety of their children," Dr. Dhiren Gupta, paediatrician at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. 

Dr. Krishna Ella, chairman and managing director, Bharat Biotech, said, “We have established Covaxin as a universal vaccine for adults and children. Safety of the vaccine is critical for children, and we are glad to share that Covaxin has now proven data for safety and immunogenicity in children. We have achieved our goal of developing a safe and efficacious covid-19 vaccine for adults and children."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with chief ministers on the covid-related situation in the country over videoconferencing on Wednesday at 12noon.

In the fight against covid, vaccination has played a key role. India started its nationwide immunization drive on 16 January last year in phases, and has administered over 1.88 billion doses so far.

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