NEW DELHI: Making COVID-19 vaccine available for children will be a milestone achievement and pave the way for reopening of schools and resumption of outdoor activities for them, AIIMS Chief Dr Randeep Guleria has said.
He said the data of phase two and three trial of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin on two to 18 years age group is expected by September.
The vaccine can be available for children in India around that time following approval from the drug regulator, he said.
“If the Pfizer vaccine gets approval before that, then it can also be an option for children,” Dr Guleria told PTI on Saturday.
According to a senior government official, pharmaceutical major Zydus Cadila is also likely to soon apply to the Drugs Controller General of India for emergency use authorisation for its COVID-19 vaccine ZyCoV-D, which it claims can be given to both adults and children.
“So, if the Zydus vaccine gets approval, it will be another option,” Dr Guleria said.
He stressed that though children mostly have mild infections of COVID-19 and some even are asymptomatic, they can be carriers of the infection.
Underscoring that there has been a major loss in studies in the last one-and-half years on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, the AIIMS chief said, “Schools have to be reopened and vaccination can play an important role in that.”
Vaccination is the way out from the pandemic, he said.
The government has recently cautioned that even though COVID-19 has not impacted children greatly till now, that can increase if there is a change in the behaviour of the virus or in epidemiology dynamics.
It said that preparations are being made to deal with any such situation.
A national expert group has been formed to review COVID-19 infections among children and approach the pandemic in a new way and reinforce the nation’s preparedness for it.
On the issue of vaccinating children, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul recently said, “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.”
He further shared that not only Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, Zydus Cadila’s vaccine is also being tested on children.
“So when Zydus comes for licensure soon, maybe we have enough data to take a view on whether the vaccine can be given in children,” Paul said.