As India continues with its COVID-19 vaccination drive, with an aim to immunise the maximum number of people, thereby reducing the impact of the possible third wave, children have remained a matter of concern.
That is because currently the COVID-19 vaccines are only being made available for those above the age of 18.
Amid the fears that the third wave of COVID-19 will affect children more than in the first two waves, there has been a growing demand in the country that vaccines should be made available to those below the age of 18.
Currently, two vaccines, COVAXIN by Bharat Biotech and the yet to be approved COVID-19 vaccine by Zydus are undergoing clinical trials in India among children and are expected to be cleared in a couple of months.
On Saturday, AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria said that children in India could start getting the COVID-19 vaccine from September.
COVAXIN for children
Bharat Biotech's Covaxin trials for children are presently underway and the results are expected to be released by September, the AIIMS director informed.
"The vaccines for children should come out now because trials in India are already there in the vaccines which are available in India, Bharat Biotech trial is in the final phase by September we will have the data," he told ANI.
The trial is conducted in three phases by segregating children into categories according to their age. The first trial was started in the age group of 12-18 years followed by the age group of 6-12 years and 2-6 years which are currently undergoing trials.
He further said that Zydus Cadila has included the data for children for their COVID-19 vaccine.
Zydus Cadila for children
"Zydus Cadila vaccine has also included children and their data is already there. They have already applied for the emergency use authorization," he said.
Zydus Cadila has concluded its trial for children between the age group of 12 to 18. The Ahmedabad-based pharmaceutical firm had on July 1, requested emergency use approval for ZyCoV-D, its three-dose COVID shot - the world's first Plasmid DNA vaccine.It will, however, be a few more days before the country's drug regulator Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) gives it emergency use authorisation, as per sources.
Dr Guleria also said, "In the coming few weeks or by September vaccines should be available for children. We should then start schools in a graded manner as we have been doing for 18-45 years age and that also will give more protection to kid and more confidence to public that children are safe."
May need a booster dose
He also said that with various mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 emerging in the near future, there might be a need for the country to adopt a booster dose with second-generation COVID-19 vaccines.
"It seems that we probably need the booster dose of vaccines as with the passage of time the immunity tends to fall. There is waning immunity. We would like to have booster dose that will cover for various emerging variants," Dr Guleria said.
He further stated that the booster dose will be a second-generation vaccine.
"We will have second-generation vaccines which would be better in terms of the immunity they give, covering of the new variants and a having a better overall efficacy. Trials of booster vaccine shots are already going on. You will probably need a booster dose till the end of this year. But that's only once the population is vaccinated, then the next step will be to administer a booster dose," Dr Guleria said.