The Union government on Friday told the Delhi high court that Covid-19 vaccines for children below the age of 18 years will be available “in the near future” as the clinical trials are on the verge of completion.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was informed by Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma that Zydus Cadila, which is developing DNA vaccines for Covid-19, has concluded its clinical trial for children between the ages of 12 and 18 years of age and is awaiting statutory permission.
He also said that a policy would be formulated and implemented by the Centre for vaccination of children as expeditiously as possible after grant of requisite permissions by the experts adding that some clinical trials are ongoing.
In its affidavit, the government told the court that the Drug Controller General of India has permitted Bharat Biotech to conduct clinical trials on children between the ages of 2 and 18 for its vaccine, Covaxin.
The submissions were made in response to a plea by 12-year-old Tia Gupta, seeking direction to the Centre and the Delhi government to immediately vaccinate children between the ages of 12 and 18 in the city. The petition, filed through advocate Bihu Sharma, has also asked for prioritising vaccination for parents with new-born children.
To be sure, around a third of the 940 million eligible population of adults in India has received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Research has also shown that infection and fatality rates continue to remain low among children, although some medical professionals have created panic by warning that children will be especially susceptible should a third wave of the disease descend on India -- a claim that is entirely bereft of scientific backing. However, public health experts have said that children, like everyone else, should get vaccinated against the disease as and when they become eligible and shots become available.
On Friday, senior advocate Kailash Vasdev submitted that the Union government has not specified any timeline for vaccinating children who have been out of physical school since last March.
“Nobody is delaying, there cannot be a time limit granted by the court that too for research. The trials are ongoing and pathological effects have to be seen. They are saying trials are on and it is on the verge of completion. What time bound schedule do you want?” the court said while rejecting the request for a timeline to complete the clinical trials.
The court observed that while the entire country is waiting for the vaccine, there should be a “foolproof trial”.
“Everybody is in a hurry. Everybody is for the vaccine but a foolproof trial should be there, otherwise it will be a disaster,” the court said and granted time till September 6 to the Centre.
Gupta’s plea contended that India’s vaccine policy failed to factor-in children or parents of children, who are a vulnerable section of society, for vaccination against the deadly virus.
Meanwhile, the court also disposed of a separate plea which had sought vaccination of the children in wake of the board exams.