Vaccine for kids unlikely this year as govt seeks more data

Monika Yadav | | | Updated on: Nov 12, 2021
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Cases, mortality among under-18s quite low; govt wary of side-effects

A full-scale roll out of vaccines for children looks unlikely this year, as the Centre wants to gather more data to formulate a streamlined programme that could, for instance, prioritise children with co-morbidities.

Presently, about 15,000 active Covid cases are being reported in children, with negligible mortality, said Health Ministry representatives. The Ministry is waiting for more scientific data to support an immunisation drive for children, multiple sources told BusinessLine.

Health experts point out that in the last two waves, about 10 per cent of the total cases were in children and the fatality rate was less than 1 per cent, largely in immuno-compromised children.

“Our priority is to vaccinate adults first. When children are safe and there is hardly any mortality among children, then why unnecessarily vaccinate them. Moreover, in the US, there have been reports of myocarditis and pericarditis in children after they were administered Moderna and Pfizer (mRNA) vaccines. So, we are wary about it and studying it closely,” a top official said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines myocarditis as an inflammation of the heart muscle and pericarditis as an inflammation of the outer lining of the heart.

In fact, Health Minister Mansukh Mandavaiya, too, has said the Centre was not in a rush to vaccinate children, and a decision on this count would be taken after more studies were considered by the expert panel looking into it.

Five vaccines are in the pipeline — ZyCov D from Zydus Cadila; Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin; Corbevax from Biological E and Covovax (from Novavax) brought to India by Serum Institute. Of these, ZyCov D has got an Emergency Use Authorisation from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), while Covaxin has been recommended by DCGI’s expert panel.

Why kids need the jab

Delhi-based Saurabh Gahoi, father of a seven-year-old, says children are vulnerable and should be vaccinated. Arvind Taneja, Chief Advisor (Paediatrics and Infectious Diseases), Max Smart Super Speciality Hospital (Saket), observed: “Vulnerable children who are immuno-compromised such as those who are overweight/obese, suffer from diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, high BP and cancer survivors should be given priority as they are prone to contracting the virus. We have been receiving queries about children’s vaccinations from parents as well as schools specially before sessions re-open.”

Krishan Chugh, Director (Paediatrics), Fortis Memorial Research Institute, points out, “if children get infected, say in the schools, they will bring the coronavirus home and pass it onto their grandparents, who we all know are so vulnerable to severe disease.” In fact, he says, more than 35 per cent of the population is below 18 years. And unless a majority of them are vaccinated, it would be hard to achieve herd immunity and end the circulation of this virus.

Published on November 13, 2021

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