The scientific rationale and the supply situation will dictate the final call for vaccine approval, COVID task force leader VK Paul said.
The government will make a final decision on immunizing children and adolescents against the coronavirus based on an overall scientific rationale as well as the supply situation of vaccines available for those under 18, the chief said on Sunday. of the COVID task force, VK Paul.
Mr Paul, who has played a key role in the government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, also warned that even as infections do decline and the second wave does decline, it will not be fair to say now that the worst is over since many countries have experienced more than two waves.
Currently, three vaccines – Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V – administered in the country only affect people over the age of 18. All are two-dose vaccines. Zydus Cadila’s locally developed needleless COVID-19 vaccine, ZyCoV-D, is set to become the first vaccine to be available in India for 12-18 year olds. It has received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
“We know that several countries have introduced vaccination of adolescents (people) and children. We will make a final decision based on the overall scientific rationale and the supply situation for licensed childhood vaccines in the future, ”Paul told PTI in an interview.
A panel of experts from the Central Indian Pharmaceutical Authority has recommended granting EUA to Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for children and adolescents aged 2 to 18 with certain conditions. If approved by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), it will be the second vaccine after ZyCoV-D to obtain EUA for use in under-18s. The National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NTAGI) is examining how ZyCov-D should be positioned for optimal use.
According to Paul, Covaxin is part of the adult immunization schedule and how to deliver the vaccine, if applicable to children, should also be considered in the overall immunization schedule requirements. “A pragmatic decision (on immunizing children and adolescents) can be made (only) by balancing supply and potential eligibility,” he said.
While noting that it will not be possible now to give a particular timetable on the start of the COVID vaccination for children, Mr Paul said: “The preparation for the incorporation of the Zydus Cadila vaccine into the vaccination program is going well, training is already underway. NTAGI advice for the best use of the vaccine is explored. Soon it will be rolled out. According to Paul, children are an integral part of the chains of transmission of COVID and are infected in large numbers.
At the same time, COVID infections in children are very mild or asymptomatic, and that’s one side of the story. On the other side, he said that once there are enough vaccines available that can be used in children, “then why not protect them.” Schools have reopened in many states, primarily for the upper grades. When asked if the worst of the pandemic is over, Paul said: “It is reassuring that the number of COVID cases is now dropping and the second wave is now decreasing, but to say the worst is past will not be fair because we have seen in other nations there have been more than two waves ”.
Warning that the country is going through a phase where there are festivals and potential gatherings, he said it was a critical phase as the virus can spread again. “We have seen that even in other countries where immunization coverage is good, the escalation of the pandemic can and has happened. “Therefore, we should certainly not assume that this downtrend situation will continue and we should certainly not think that the worst is over, we must always be vigilant,” he stressed.
While noting that the immunization program has gained tremendous speed, Paul also said that states that for whatever reason are lagging behind need to work hard and push vaccination. “Now, of course, there is no shortage, no shortage of vaccine supply. So far this is 10 crore vaccine doses with state governments for the immunization program. “, did he declare.
With the supply situation excellent, Paul said states must make sure to reach out to those who are excluded from the immunization program. “Considering the current situation of the generous vaccine supply and the performance of the vaccine implementation program, it is well within our reach to achieve universal vaccination of the adult population,” he said. asserted. On some reports that India will simply not have enough syringes for COVID vaccines if every adult is to be fully vaccinated by the end of the year, Paul said: “There is no syringe availability problem, we are in good shape ”.
The country recorded 14,146 new COVID infections in one day while active cases fell to 1,95,846, the lowest in 220 days, according to data from the Union Health Ministry released on Sunday.