Details of the vaccination of children between 12 and 17, including prioritising those with health complications, will be announced before the Zydus Cadila vaccine is rolled out in October, the government's Covid panel chief NK Arora has said. He also suggested that schools should be reopened, citing the latest sero survey to explain that children are less likely to get severe Covid infection.
Dr Arora said it is estimated that there are around 12 crore children in the age group of 12-18 years in India and less than 1 per cent of them may have health problems.
"There are 12 crore children in the 12-17 age group. They are unlikely to have serious health complications or death due to the virus. On the contrary, chances of health complications in their parents, who may be between 18-45 years, are likely by 10-15 times. Hence, our priority is to vaccinate this group before we start vaccinating children," Dr Arora, who heads the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), said.
He said there are about 44 crore children in the country under the age of 18 and suggested reopening of schools was necessary for the "intellectual development" of children.
"Children can go to schools. There is no need for vaccination... but it is necessary to develop a shield around them - by ensuring that their parents and school staff are vaccinated," he said.
Dr Arora's comments come amid concerns the third wave is more likely to affect children.
"Paediatric facilities - doctors and equipment, like ventilators and ambulances, are nowhere close to what may be required in case a large number of children become infected," the National Institute of Disaster Management has indicated (NIDM), which operates under the Home Ministry, said as part of a report on recommendations to prep for the third wave.
ZyCoV-D, an indigenously developed drug that is the world's first DNA-based, needle-free COVID-19 vaccine, received EUA, or Emergency Use Authorisation, on August 20.
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has said that when injected ZyCoV-D produces the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and elicits an immune response, which plays a vital role in protection from the disease as well as viral clearance.
It said interim results from phase 3 clinical trials in over 28,000 volunteers showed primary efficacy of 66.6 per cent for symptomatic RT-PCR positive cases. This has been the largest vaccine trial so far in India for COVID-19, the DBT said.
The vaccine had already exhibited robust immunogenicity, tolerability and safety profile in the adaptive phase one and two trials. Both phase 1 and 2, and phase 3 trials have been monitored by an independent data safety monitoring board, it added.
With inputs from PTI