The COVID-19 vaccination among children will pave the way for the reopening of schools and resumption of outdoor activities for them, said All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) director Dr Randeep Guleria.
"Schools have to be reopened and vaccination can play an important role in that," said Dr Guleria while saying that there has been a major loss in studies in the last one-and-half years on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccination is the way out from the pandemic, he stressed.
The chief of India’s premier medical institute gave a timeline for the availability of jabs against COVID-19 for children and said its availability for kids will be a milestone achievement.
In talks with news agency PTI, Dr Guleria said vaccines could be available for children in India around September when data from phase two and three trials of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin on those in the age group of two to 18 years is expected. The COVID-19 vaccine could be given to children after the approval of the Drugs Controller General of India’s (DGCI), he told the news agency.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"If the Pfizer vaccine gets approval before that, then it can also be an option for children," he was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, Pharmaceutical major Zydus Cadila is also likely to apply to India’s drug regulator for emergency use authorisation for its COVID-19 vaccine ZyCoV-D, said the report citing a senior government official. The vaccine manufacturer has claimed that the shots can be given to both adults and children, it said.
"So, if the Zydus vaccine gets approval, it will be another option," Dr Guleria said.
He further emphasised that children can be carriers of COVID-19 even though they mostly have mild infections and some even are asymptomatic.
Earlier, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr VK Paul had said that the decision to reopen schools, which are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has to be taken cautiously amid the ongoing "unpredictable situation".
Addressing the Union Health Ministry's media briefing on the COVID-19 situation in India, Paul had said, “the decision has to be taken cautiously and we should take risks only when we are protected.”
According to Paul, the country needs 25-26 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate children. "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," Paul was quoted as saying by PTI.Follow our full coverage on COVID-19 here.