Children in India should be vaccinated with the Covovax coronavirus vaccine, and not Covishield, Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla told NDTV Tuesday afternoon.
"Not Covishield... Covovax should be available in six months. (The) trials are on... no safety issues so far. We have gone down to the age of seven (with) good results..." Mr Poonawalla said when asked about vaccines for kids.
"Our approach will be to vaccinate children right down to the age of two with Covovax," he said, adding there is "a lot of stock of Covovax" and that these would be available - in India and to the world - on receipt of regulatory approvals.
"Covovax, which is called Novovax in the US and select European markets, is seeing delays worldwide in regulatory procedural approvals, so there are some delays (in the vaccine being released for India's vaccination drive)," Mr Poonawalla explained.
"For now, we do not want Indians to get stuck with Covovax as it has not got approvals worldwide for travel purposes. So, adults should take Covishield as it is acceptable worldwide," he added.
Yesterday, Dr NK Arora, the Chairman of India's Covid task force, told NDTV vaccination for kids with comorbidities would begin sometime in December. Healthy children could expect vaccines sometime in the first quarter of 2022, he added.
"We will go in a stepwise manner... ultimately, I think somewhere in the latter half of December, I think we should be able to start paediatric vaccination for priority children. And as soon as we finish these, which are 10 to 15 per cent, we move on to healthy children," Dr Arora said.
In August the Drug Controller General of India approved Zydus Cadila's three-dose vaccine ZyCoV-D for use on children over the age of 12. The company had then said it plans to manufacture 100-120 million doses annually, and had started stockpiling.
ZyCoV-D (which has yet to receive emergency use approval from the World Health Organization) was found to have 66.6 per cent efficacy in a late-stage trial of over 28,000 volunteers worldwide.
And in October, Bharat Biotech's Covaxin became the second vaccine approved for kids (between the ages of two and 18) in India. However, as with ZyCoV-D, safety and efficacy data for children has yet to be released. Equivalent data for adults shows 77.8 per cent protection, a Lancet study said.
Covaxin received WHO approval earlier this month - after a long journey.
When cleared Serum Institute's Covovax (or Novavax) will be the third vaccine for kids in India. So far it has been trialed on children in two groups - between two and 11, and 12 and 17, and, like ZyCoV-D, has not yet got the WHO's stamp of approval, although it has been cleared for use in some countries.
Dr NK Arora, when asked why the authorities were going ahead with with ZyCoV-D, or any other vaccine for kids, without the approval of the WHO, said: "We have seen the data, there are no safety concerns" as these are all inactivated vaccines.
Dr Arora said the government was waiting on Zydus Cadila and the Serum Institute to complete their trials and evaluate gathered data - to ensure the vaccines are both safe and effective for children.