NEW DELHI: The government is likely to start vaccination of children against Covid-19 only by March 2022, even as three-four vaccines are likely to be approved for the Under-18 age group by December, official sources said.
Zydus Cadila‘s Covid-19 vaccine, ZyCoV-D, is expected to get an emergency use authorisation for the 12-18 cohort by end of August, whereas Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin – the world’s only vaccine being tested for use in the age group of 2-18 yrs – is also likely to get a go-ahead by September.
There is also an mRNA vaccine being developed by Gennova Pharmaceuticals. Though the mRNA vaccine is currently under clinical trial for use in adults, it is likely to be approved for children without separate trials. These vaccines are already being given to children in other countries, an official said.
The Novavax Covid-19 vaccine, named Covavax in India with Serum Institute of India (SII) as its manufacturing partner, is likely to be approved for emergency use by December. The government aims to vaccinate the adult population by the year-end, but officials are aware that this also depends on persons being willing to be vaccinated apart from availability of the shots.
The government will prioritise children with co-morbidities – estimated to be around 30 lakh – to receive the vaccines initially and then include others depending on availability. Overall, there are around 40 crore young persons below 18 years.
“Covid vaccination among children will start only once all adults are vaccinated. We also have to ensure that there is adequate supply of the approved vaccines to cover all children,” the official said.
Total of over 57 crore doses have been administered across the country till 8pm on Thursday with over 49% of 94 crore adult population getting at least a first dose of the vaccine. Around 14% of adults are fully vaccinated.
Officials say vaccination of children should not stop schools from opening if staff is immunised.
“Children are not severely impacted by the infection. In most cases, it is mild. Primarily they spread the disease. So, if school staff and parents are all immunised, it is safe to open schools,” the official said.
Though the pace of vaccination has increased of late, limited supplies and the upcoming festival season are seen as challenges that may again impact the speed of the programme.
Even though new vaccines like ZyCoV-D are expected to enhance supplies, it will depend on by when these vaccines are actually available and in what quantity.