India is not considering lowering the eligibility of COVID-19 vaccine administration in children below 12 years, an official from the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) told Moneycontrol.
NTAGI is India’s vaccine think tank, an apex advisory body on immunisation, which provides guidance and advice to the Union health ministry.
“We have not considered vaccinating kids below the age group of 12 years. The uptake of COVID vaccine in the age group above 12-8 years is tepid and we are just focusing on the population that is susceptible to severe infection,” said an official who is part of NTAGI, asking not to be named.
Responding to a query related to the US starting COVID vaccination for children aged six months to five years, the NTAGI official said, “The Indian government is in no hurry to administer COVID-19 vaccines to children below 12 years of age.”
Days after the US Food and Drug Administration's authorisation, the US government started distributing mRNA-based COVID vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer for children aged six months to five years across the country, according to White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha.
“We believe that a majority of kids have natural protection and the kids have reported minimal severity our focus is only on the age group above 12 years and the aim is to vaccinate comorbid children rapidly,” he added.
The office of the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) has approved two vaccines—Serum Institute of India's Covovax and the Biological E-manufactured Corbevax—for administration in the 5-12-year age group.
The DCGI in April had also given emergency use authorisation to Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for the 6-12-year cohort.Also read: CBI apprehends Joint Drug Controller in alleged Rs 4 lakh bribery case
However, NTAGI meetings reviewing data from vaccine makers for children in the 5-12 years bracket have remained inconclusive.
Kids have natural immunity and don't need vaccines.
Experts say COVID vaccines in children may not provide any additional benefit as most have already developed immunity as they have been exposed to the infection earlier. Shilpa Sharma, chair of the Delhi Association of Paediatric Surgeons, said that there is no point in giving kids more vaccines and subjecting them to more antigens.
“The additional immunity can interfere with the natural immunity of the children. If the natural infection goes down, it may bring a host of other infections they are normally immune to,” she said.Sanjay K Rai, a senior epidemiologist at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, who was also the principal investigator of Covaxin trials for adults and children at AIIMS, too believes that lowering the age group for vaccinating kids is not necessary.