Vaccination for children to commence from August

Vaccination of children against COVID-19 may start as early as August, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told a meeting of the BJP parliamentary party on Tuesday.

India was on its way to becoming the largest producer of vaccines as his Ministry would expedite more licences to Indian companies, he stated. He also spoke about the government’s efforts to fight COVID-19 and ramp up vaccination.

The Minister’s statements are in line with what the government told the Delhi High Court in early July that vaccines for adolescents between the ages of 12-18 would be available soon, as trials were under various stages and that a policy to regulate the vaccination programme would be spelt out soon.

Giving more details about this, Lav Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry, said at a press conference that both Bharat Biotech’s Covaxvin and Zydus Cadila’s DNA vaccines for the 12-18 age group were being looked into. “Final trial results are awaited and after due scrutiny, the vaccines will be made available for children. We hope to make the vaccine available in the near future,’’ he added.

A senior Health Ministry official said that while the Pfizer- BioNTech mRNA vaccine had been tested and approved in the European Union for use in adolescents aged 12-15, India was looking at an indigenous vaccine. “The exact timeline for this vaccine’s procurement and the quantity available is still not certain, so details can be given out only after the fine print has been decided upon,’’ he stated.

All India Institute of Medical Sciences head Randeep Guleria had advocated the resumption of physical classes of primary schools if vaccination was successfully able to cover those associated with school activities. He had said that while vaccination of children will be a milestone, children mostly have mild infections and some even are asymptomatic.

“They, however, can be carriers of the infection, which is dangerous for the medically compromised section of society. Currently, while Zydus has already done the trials, Covaxin trials should be over by August or September, and by that time, we should get an approval and roll out the vaccine for children,’’ he noted.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) previously gave Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine emergency use authorisation for children. This vaccine requires two injections given 21 days apart. The European medicines’ watchdog has also approved the use of Moderna’s vaccine for children aged 12 to 17.

Suresh Kumar Panuganti, consultant peadiatric critical care, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad, said prevention is better than cure and various diseases could be prevented in children by using vaccines.

Dr. (Maj.) Manish Mannan, HoD, Peadiatrics and Neonatology, Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon, pointed out that vaccines have a great role in preventing the severity of illness, comorbidity and mortality.

“Vaccination would be very helpful for the safety of the children and is very necessary. As announced, first the vaccination will be given to 12-18 year old kids and then it will followed with other age group of kids depending upon the effectiveness, adverse effects and reaction, if any. In this pandemic, if vaccination is available, one should surely get it,’’ he asserted.

Dr. Mannan noted that the vaccines which were made available underwent a lot of process before being made available to the public. “All the vaccines’ efficacy are tested and all of them will play a great role in reducing the severity of conditions. It is not correct to say that a 3rd wave will effect kids largely. Most of the children are already exposed to the disease but vaccination would be helpful,’’ he added.

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