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Covid vax for children likely to be available by September: AIIMS chief

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date
Covid vax for children likely to be available by September: AIIMS chief

New Delhi: Talking about the important of breaking the chain of coronavirus amid concern over a third wave, AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria on Saturday morning said “Hopefully, by September, we should start vaccinating children, and that will be a big boost as far as breaking the chain of transmission is concerned”.

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Dr Guleria said “I think Zydus has already done the trials and they’re waiting for the emergency authorisation. The Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin trials should be over by August or September, and by that time we should get an approval. Pfizer vaccine has been already approved by the FDA (US regulator – Food and Drug Administration). Hopefully, by September, we should start vaccinating children, and that will be a big boost as far as breaking the chain of transmission is concerned.”

India has given over 42 crore doses of vaccines so far and inoculated nearly 6 per cent of its population while the government aims to vaccinate all adults by the end of this year. However, the country is yet to clear a vaccine for children.

On Friday, the European medicines watchdog approved the use of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for children aged 12 to 17. In May, the United States had authorised the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 years old.

“We need to get our own vaccines too – that’s why both Bharat Biotech and Zydus are important. Getting the Pfizer vaccine will also be helpful, as there is enough data to suggest it’s safe… but we can’t be sure if we will get required numbers. We will hopefully have more than one vaccine for children by September,” the AIIMS chief said today.

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A study published earlier this week by ‘The Lancet’, one of the world’s oldest medical journals, underlined that “living with 11-17 year olds increases the risk of infection by 18-30 per cent.”

Speaking about this Dr Guleria said: “It’s an important issue. Vulnerable people – the elderly or those having illnesses – are at an increased risk of getting the infection (in such cases). That’s one of the reasons why people are worried about children going to schools… they may get a mild infection but they may pass it to their grandparents. We need more data but this is something that has been shown even with influenza.”

Earlier this month, Dr NK Arora, who heads the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration, had told a leading media house that vaccination for children will start by September with the Zydus vaccine for 12 to 18-year-olds.

Meanwhile, about two-thirds of the Indian population above the age of six have already developed antibodies against coronavirus, reveals the latest nationwide serological survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which was released earlier this week.

It’s encouraging to see, Dr Guleria said, that even the younger population has developed immunity. “What is encouraging is the sero  survey this time also looked at the younger population also. There was a lot of worry that children may be vulnerable in the third wave. The survey suggested that even children may have got the infection, and to some extent they’re protected,” he explained.

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India can hope to reopen its schools fully by the end of this year as children get vaccinated, the AIIMS chief further said, “I personally feel, in a graded manner, physical classes should start. A lot of children who don’t have access to online classes are suffering. By October, November or end of the year, when children start getting vaccinated, we should be in a position that schools open fully.”

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