‘Parents must get vaccinated’: Doctors' solution to protecting kids from Omicron

India has approved two Covid-19 vaccines for children, including Zydus Cadila's ZyCoV-D and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. However, the vaccination process is yet to begin in the country.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had approved Covaxin last month.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had approved Covaxin last month.
Updated on Dec 07, 2021 09:15 PM IST
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Written by Sharangee Dutta | Edited by Avik Roy, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

With cases of Omicron variant rising rapidly in India, doctors have urged parents to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, and get inoculated with vaccine shots in order to protect their children from getting infected.

Associate director of Delhi's Rainbow Children's Hospital, Dr Nitin Verma said that if the Omicron Covid-19 variant spreads, children will be at high risk. “That's not to say that they will get severe disease, but they will certainly be at enhanced risk for developing Covid-19,” he told news agency ANI.

Several countries in the world, with a majority in Europe, including the United Kingdom, Germany and France, among others, have begun vaccinating children in the age group of 12 to 15. Spain on Tuesday gave its nod to vaccinating five to 11-year-olds.  India, which is second in the world in the cumulative tally of Covid-19 cases after the United States, has approved emergency-use authorisation to two vaccines for children - Zydus Cadila's ZyCoV-D and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, but is yet to start the vaccination process

India's indigenous Covid-19 vaccine ‘Covaxin’ that received the WHO approval for emergency-use listing (EUL) on November 3, was given the green signal to be administered in children aged two to 18 by the expert panel of Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI). However, the DCGI is yet to approve Covaxin for children with the Centre informing at the ongoing winter session of Parliament recently that additional data has been sought from manufacturer Bharat Biotech and the expert panel's recommendation is being examined.

Also Read | Additional data sought, expert panel’s recommendations being examined: Centre on Covaxin for kids

Dr Verma noted that as soon as Covid-19 vaccine for kids is rolled out in India, as many children as possible should be vaccinated. “So, if all the adults around them are vaccinated and practice Covid-appropriate behaviour, then we can protect the children,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.

Besides getting jabbed and following protocols, Dr Verma said that people must conduct RT-PCR tests as soon as they develop symptoms of coronavirus.

Echoing Dr Verma, senior paediatrician at Delhi's Sir Gangaram Hospital, Dr Dhiren Gupta told ANI that some “alarming reports” from South Africa - where Omicron variant was first discovered, reveal hospitalisation rates are witnessing a surge among kids aged below five. “Only vaccination and Covid-appropriate behaviour can prevent such infections from entering our homes,” Dr Gupta added.

He pointed out that the first two Omicron cases in India, reported in Karnataka, show that they didn't spread the infection to their secondary contacts. The doctor stressed on the possibility that immunised (vaccinated) host infectivity “is less due to less viral load.”

Dr Gupta highlighted that strict measures must be adopted to ensure that no adult in India escapes the vaccination coverage. These include not permitting anyone to leave their home unless vaccinated against Covid-19. “Unvaccinated human should be considered as a vehicle which is polluting roads and is injurious to other humans,” the doctor was quoted as saying by ANI.

Dr Gupta said that once safety of Covid-19 vaccine jabs for children is “assured”, pediatric vaccination must be initiated in the country.

India has so far reported as many as 23 Omicron cases, with Maharashtra accounting for 10 of them. On Monday, two people were found to be infected with the variant in Mumbai. A 37-year-old who arrived from South Africa and his 36-year-old friend who reached the Maharashtra capital from the US. Authorities told Hindustan Times that both the infected persons showed no symptoms and were vaccinated against coronavirus with Pfizer-BioNtech's vaccine.

Other than Maharashtra, Omicron cases have been detected in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi and Karnataka.

Starting December 1, India revised its travel guidelines for all international arrivals. These include mandatory RT-PCR tests for all international flyers, and an addition of seven-day quarantine for those coming from at-risk countries.

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