India may consider the issue of vaccinating 12-18-year-old children after another three months, by when the drug regulator would be able to examine the clinical trial data on nearly 1,000 adolescents who participated in the evaluation exercise of a new Covid-19 vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical major Zydus Cadila.
"Since it may take 8-10 weeks for the Central Drug Standard Control Organisation to review the Zydus Cadila vaccination data, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) may take a decision on giving vaccines to 12-18-year-olds sometime between October and December,” NK Arora, one of the Centre’s top advisors on Covid-19 vaccination policy, told DH.
Earlier this month, Zydus Cadila said it had submitted only safety and tolerability data on children to the regulator and would take about a month to analyse and submit the efficacy data on kids. The indigenous DNA vaccine ZyCoV-D has been found to be 66.6 per cent effective in adults.
Arora said 10-12 per cent of the Indian population would fall into the 12-18 years category, which means there would be 13-14 adolescents requiring the vaccine. They would be in addition to the 94.47 crore target population identified by the government.
"Vaccination of the adolescents will ultimately happen at one point of time, but there is no urgent need,” said Gagandeep Kang, India’s leading vaccine researcher and a professor at the Christian Medical College in Vellore.
Both Kang and Arora said the reopening of the schools should not be linked to Covid-19 vaccination. Rather, it is important to ensure that every staff member in a school gets a jab so that a ring of fully vaccinated people surrounds the children. But when inoculation happens, those with comorbidities should get the jab first.
Meanwhile, a meta-analysis of 57 research studies by UK researchers has suggested that children are at the lowest risk of developing severe diseases from Covid-19 infections. However, those with cardiac and neurological illnesses or having two comorbidities or obesity are at higher risk.