By Ashish Srivastava
New Delhi: As the COVID-19 vaccination among the adult population is underway and steadily approaching the ambitious target of 100 per cent immunisation with at least the first dose before 2021 ends, all eyes are set on the COVID-19 vaccination for children.
In an exclusive conversation with UNI, the head of the Centre’s vaccination panel informed that the eagerly awaited COVID-19 immunisation programme for children will roll out in the first quarter of 2022, starting with Co-morbid children first.
Dr NK Arora, chairperson, Covid-19 working group of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) also said that four vaccines are coming up before the end of 2021 which will contribute to children immunisation against the viral disease.
“We have four vaccines Corbevax, Covavax, Zy-CoV-D and Covaxin coming up before this year ends which can be given to children. They will definitely contribute to the immunisation programme,” he told UNI.
Meanwhile, when asked about the delay to begin the paediatric immunisation, Arora said the vaccination for children is being taken up in a “comprehensive manner” ensuring every aspect of vaccination before the roll-out.
“Learning from the adult immunisation plan and the almost negligible impact of COVID-19 on children, we are carefully organising the paediatric immunisation in a comprehensive manner. We don’t want any kind of hassle faced by our children and their parents once the programme is rolled out,” he added
“We have to ensure adequate supply and stock of doses, costing, training of manpower if needed etc. Only after that, we will be able to roll out the programme. I’m certain that we will be able to achieve all the assurances and begin the immunisation drive in the first quarter of 2022,” the chief of the vaccine panel said further.
Arora also said that the priority among children will be given to those suffering from Comorbidities.
“The list is being prepared and we are certain that these children (comorbid) will be prioritised first when the rollout starts,” he added.
While the final list of specified comorbidities is yet to be published by the Union Government, sources at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare told UNI that the list is expected to include children suffering from haematological, neurological, cardiac, liver, gastrointestinal, rheumatic, cancer, respiratory, genitourinary, and developmental disorders.
UNI had reported in August that the Centre is likely to prioritize children with underlying risk factors first when the vaccination against COVID-19 rolls out for the pediatric age.
So far, India has approved Zy-CoV-D by pharmaceutical firm Zydus Cadila to vaccinate children above 12 against the COVID-19.
Besides, the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) under India’s drug regulatory body has recommended Covaxin for children between 2 to 18 years of age. However, it is yet to be approved by the drug control authority.
Official sources suggested that the makers of Zy-CoV-D and the government are not on the same page considering the high price of the three-dose regimen COVID-19 jab.
Meanwhile, in the approval of Covaxin for children, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya informed in a press conference held on Tuesday that a technical committee has approved Covaxin for Children while it is being analysed further by other committees.