New Delhi, October 12
The subject expert committee of the national drug regulator on Tuesday cleared Covaxin Covid shot for emergency use in children aged two to 18 years giving India the first approved vaccine for use in kids as small as two.
Previously, the Drug Controller General of India had approved Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D for emergency use in people aged 12 and above.
The clearance to Covaxin for children between two to 18 comes at a time when schools are reopening with challenges in respect of protection of children from disease mounting. Although there is no clear evidence of children being more vulnerable to a potential third wave of the virus, countries have been expanding vaccination drives to cover children.
India’s apex national body that lays down guidance for inoculations – the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation – is currently working to give guidance for Covid vaccination in children.
The NTAGI is already engaged on which segments among children should be prioritised for vaccination. The guidance for ZyCoV-D use among 12 to 18 year olds is also being deliberated upon.
The NTAGI will now take a combined call on vaccination for children, with Covaxin also approved today for emergency use in children.
The World Health Organisation, however, has given no guidance on Covid vaccine use among children, with larger evidence suggesting a natural immunity among children to viruses.
Countries are taking individual calls on the matter with the US and UK having taken the lead in inoculating children against Covid.
The approval of child vaccines by the DCGI means these can be used provided the expert vaccination panel that guides Indian policy on Covid inoculation lays down the conditions for use.
For instance, when the adult Covid vaccine drive was launched in January this year, it was prioritised for elderly and co-morbid populations before being further expanded.
A similar policy could be followed for children to start with considering the production would be limited.
It also remains to be seen how Covid shots for children will be rolled out. The adult vaccine drive is being managed by the government, with the Centre procuring 75 per cent produce from manufacturers for free distribution further to states.
Covaxin is a collaboration between ICMR and Bharat Biotech.