A senior government official had told Business Standard last week that so far there was no scientific evidence to expand the vaccination programme to young children
Coronavirus Vaccine | Serum Institute of India | hepatitis B
Sohini Das |
Last Updated at May 2, 2022 23:30 IST
India’s vaccine think-tank the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) is likely to meet mid-week to review the data of Covid-19 vaccines Covovax and Corbevax for the age group 5-12 years, according to sources in the know.
This may pave the way for the inclusion of younger children in the national immunisation mission if the NTAGI finds the data satisfactory. A senior government official had told Business Standard last week that so far there was no scientific evidence to expand the vaccination programme to young children. “There are no plans yet to include children below 12 years in the vaccination drive. There is no scientific evidence about their vulnerability,” the official had said.
However, much hinges now on the upcoming NTAGI review meeting.
Last week, the standing technical sub-committee of the NTAGI had recommended inclusion of the Serum Institute’s Covovax in the Covid-19 vaccination programme for children aged 12 to 17 years. An expert committee is reviewing the data submitted by vaccine makers for 5-12 year olds. A decision will be taken based on this review.
Last week, the Drugs Controller General of India had granted emergency use approval for Corbevax (Biological E) and Covaxin (Bharat Biotech) for 5-12 year olds, while Zydus Lifescience’s ZyCoV-D was approved for use in 12 year olds and above.
India has so far vaccinated 29.1 million children in the age group 12-14 years, and 101 million in the 15-17 age bracket.
With rising cases in parts of the country and offline schools resuming, there is concern amongst parents around vaccination. In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said last week that vaccinating all eligible children at the earliest is a priority for the government and specialised programmes needed to be conducted in schools to achieve this feat.
Clinicians feel vaccines for younger children are necessary.
Pramod Jog, pediatrician from Pune and former president of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, said: “Though Covid-19 in children is comparatively less severe, we found around 11 per cent of Covid-19 cases during the second wave in children younger than 10 years of age. There were cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome and long Covid cases in our state. Considering many deaths and serious cases in 5-12 age groups, many countries have started vaccinating this age group. Indian Academy of Pediatrics expert group on vaccination strongly endorses the Covid-19 vaccines for younger children below 12 years also.”
He said Corbevax is a protein subunit vaccine manufactured using a well-established platform similar to Hepatitis B. The Hepatitis B vaccine is licensed for age group of 5 years and above and Covaxin an Inactivated vaccine licensed for age group of 6 years and above. Both vaccines are already used for children.
Several cases of Covid-19 cases in children creating hotspots for transmission and closure of school in many states have been reported recently.
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