Getting children vaccinated against COVID-19 will be a great achievement and will be a step forward for reopening of schools and resumption of outdoor activities for them, Delhi AIIMS Director, Dr Randeep Guleria has said.
Dr Guleria said the data of phase two and three trial of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin on two to 18 years age group is expected by September. “The vaccine can be available for children in India around that time following approval from the drug regulator,” he said.
“If the Pfizer vaccine gets approval before that, then it can also be an option for children,” Dr Guleria told PTI on Saturday.
According to a senior government official, pharmaceutical major Zydus Cadila is also likely to soon apply to the Drugs Controller General of India for emergency use authorisation for its COVID-19 vaccine ZyCoV-D, which it claims can be given to both adults and children.
“So, if the Zydus vaccine gets approval, it will be another option,” Dr Guleria said.
He stressed that though children mostly have mild infections of COVID-19 and some even are asymptomatic, they can be carriers of the infection.
Underscoring that there has been a major loss in studies in the last one-and-half years on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, the AIIMS chief said, “Schools have to be reopened and vaccination can play an important role in that.”
The government has recently cautioned that even though COVID-19 has not impacted children greatly till now, that can increase if there is a change in the behaviour of the virus or in epidemiology dynamics. It said that preparations are being made to deal with any such situation.
A national expert group has been formed to review COVID-19 infections among children and approach the pandemic in a new way and reinforce the nation’s preparedness for it.
On the issue of vaccinating children, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul recently said, “Child cohort is not a small one. My rough guess is that if it is between 12 to 18 years, this itself is about 13 to 14 crore population for which we will need about 25-26 crore doses.”
He further shared that not only Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, Zydus Cadila’s vaccine is also being tested on children.
“So when Zydus comes for licensure soon, maybe we have enough data to take a view on whether the vaccine can be given in children,” Paul said.
Addressing a press conference on Friday, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) DG Dr Balram Bhargava said that ICMR has started a ‘small study’ on COVID-19 vaccination on children, the results of which would come out in September.
“Whether very small children will ever need the vaccine, is still a question. Till such time we have more data on the vaccination of children, we won’t be in a position to vaccinate children at large,” Dr Bhargava said.
Serum Institute of India (SII) has announced on Saturday that it plans to conduct phase 2 and phase 3 of Covax on 920 children, 460 each from age group 12-17 years and 2-11 years, for which it will apply for permission from the Drug Controller and General of India.
(With inputs from PTI)