Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine is meant for the 12-15 year age group, but India is looking for regular supply of an indigenous jab and become self-reliant in vaccine production
Parents worried about children unable to go to school can heave a sigh of relief as Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya declared on Tuesday (July 27) that vaccination for children (12 to 18 years) will start next month.
Speaking at a BJP Parliamentary Party meeting in Delhi, Mandaviya also rolled out the government’s plan to become self-sufficient in COVID vaccine production while aiming to become the largest vaccine producing country in the world.
Trials of Zydus Cadila’s DNA vaccines for the 12-18 age group have recently concluded. The Centre told the Delhi High Court a month back that the Zydus vaccine may soon be made available.
Bharat Biotech (makers of Covaxin) has already been granted permission to conduct trials for the 2-18 age group.
Bharat Biotech’s success with this age group is important because Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine, recommended in the West for children aged 12 to 15 years, may not be reaching the Indian shores soon. Also the Health Ministry is apprehensive about how consistent Pfizer would be with its supplies because India has a population of 104 million children in the 12-18 age bracket.
Doctors have been divided about the need for reopening schools in the absence of vaccines for kids. However, all agree on the need for inoculation. Dr Monica Gandhi, professor of medicine at University of California in San Francisco, said recently that offline classes can be restarted without waiting for immunisation against COVID-19 because schools in India have “plenty of doors and windows”, which means they are well ventilated. Therefore, schools can reopen prior to vaccinations.
AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria had said that though children have been the least affected by the pandemic so far, they can be carriers of the infection.
Parents, teachers and children themselves have been waiting eagerly for schools to reopen because kids have been forced to accept an unnatural way of studying (online) due to the pandemic threat.
All health and educational experts agree that schools need to reopen at the earliest and vaccines for children should be made available at the earliest.