New Delhi: Central government may prioritize children with underlying risk factors first when the vaccination against Covid-19 rolls out for the pediatric age, a top government official has said. However, the vaccination for children can start only after immunizing the cohort of the adult population, he added.
Dr NK Arora, chairman of the Covid-19 working group told UNI that the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) will recommend the Centre to start the roll-out of vaccines first with the children who are under the risk factor of developing severe complications triggered by Covid-19 disease.
“Our primary task is to immunize the adult population. Then only we will go ahead with the pediatric immunization,” he stated.
“Children below 18 years are 40 crores in population and those with comorbidities may include 20 lakh among them. Their risk factors include immunodeficiency disorders, comorbid conditions, cancer, patients of transplant etc. We will identify them all,” the NTAGI chief informed.
“This issue will be taken up and we will be recommending it to the government,” he added.
Arora also told UNI that the immunization drive for children may begin by the first quarter of 2022, only after the adult vaccination is over, he stressed.
The government expects to get done with the adult vaccination by the end of this year, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya had said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha last month.
“In view of the dynamic and evolving nature of COVID-19 pandemic, no fixed timeline at present can be indicated for the completion of vaccination drive, however, it is expected that all beneficiaries aged 18 years and above will be vaccinated by December 2021,” the minister’s response to the parliament read.
India is expected to have a varied portfolio of Covid-19 vaccines both for the adult and pediatric populations. Two candidates in the top run for approval from India’s drug regulator are Zydus Cadila’s and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.
Zydus Cadila, which is developing DNA vaccines, has concluded its trials for the 12-18 age group, and subject to statutory provisions, the vaccine may be available in the near future. Meanwhile, the trials of Covaxin on children, based on the inactivated virus platform, are underway and the results are expected by September.
Last month, the Centre had told the Delhi High Court that Covid-19 vaccines maybe soon available for children between 12 and 18 years of age, and a policy on vaccinating them would be formulated after acquiring approval.
However, Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, recently stated that a vaccine for children is more likely to be available by September. By Ashish Srivastava