Expert panel clears use of Covaxin for ages 2-18, 900k to benefit from jab
A day after an expert group looking at Covid-19 vaccine approvals recommended the use of Covaxin for children aged 2-18 years, officials of the Ghaziabad district health department said that the move will benefit an estimated 900,000 children.
According to official estimates, the district has a population of about 3,900,000. Nearly 878,250 beneficiaries are over the age of 45, while about 1,880,276 are in the 18-44 age group.
“Of the remaining approximately 1,140,000, nearly 200,000 are estimated to be in the age group 0-2 years. So, this leaves us with roughly 900,000 children who could benefit from the vaccination coverage. However, the government estimates and guidelines regarding the vaccination of children will provide us with the accurate population estimate,” said Dr GP Mathuria, nodal officer for Covid-19 vaccination.
On Tuesday, the Subject Expert Committee, an expert group looking at vaccine approvals, recommended the use of Covaxin for the age group 2-18 years. The move raised the possibility that children could soon begin to receive Covid-19 vaccine doses across the country. The Subject Expert Committee’s recommendation will need to be accepted by the Drugs Controller of India – which is expected within days – and has to be followed by a formal inclusion in the Centre’s Covid-19 immunisation campaign.
“Once we receive the guidelines to administer Covid-19 vaccine to children, we will seek their numbers from the rolls of schools and educational institutions,” Dr Mathuria added.
Parents’ association members said that the move will make parents consider sending their children to schools.
“Children have been attending online classes for over one-and-a-half years. Once the required guidelines come in, vaccination for children should start so that they can attend schools from the next academic session,” said Vivek Tyagi, spokesperson of Ghaziabad parents’ association.
“Till then, online mode should continue. No Covid-19 vaccine for children was a major reason for parents not sending their children to schools,” he added.
According to statistics from the district health department, about 853 children in the age group 0-10 were infected during the first wave, from March 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021. These include two deaths as well.
About 1,865 children were infected in the age group 11-20 years during the same period, but there was no casualty within this age group.
During the second wave, from April 1, 2021 to June 18, 2021, about 764 children in the age group 0-10 were infected. About 1,991 in the age group 11-20 years were infected during the same period. There was no casualty reported in either age group during the second wave.
According to academicians, once the vaccination process starts, there might be some initial hesitancy.
“When the vaccine arrived for adults, there was initial hesitancy. Not many countries have data regarding the effect of vaccination on children, and it is always an issue of concern for parents. Younger children will not be able to detect the effects on their bodies. So, it would be advisable to start with higher age groups like 16-18, 14-16 etc, and then progress to vaccinating younger children,” said Jyoti Gupta, director of Delhi Public School, Sahibabad.
“Children should be vaccinated in a phased manner so that we have enough data and evidence on how it is affecting them. Initially, I do not foresee much euphoria, but acceptability will increase once encouraging results start coming out. Once this trend is observed, schools will also start with advocacy campaigns,” she added.
Health experts said that after the required approvals, vaccination for children will start.
“There were apprehensions that children will be most-affected during a possible third wave. Since they form a major part of our population and are not protected so far, they must get the vaccine at the earliest to get maximum protection against Covid-19,” said Dr Ashish Agarwal, former president of Indian Medical Association (Ghaziabad).