The Covid-19 vaccination drive for children is likely to begin by the second half of November. The subject expert committee (SEC) under the country’s drug regulator approved the use of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin in children between 2 and 18 years of age on Tuesday. The drive will first cater to children suffering from chronic or severe health conditions; the priority list of diseases may take up to three weeks to get ready.

The recommendation is being reviewed by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), and once approved, the process of rollout will begin next month.

Covid-19 infection was comparatively less severe for children and adolescents than among the adults. The infection was reportedly 4 per cent among children in the first wave, whereas in the second wave, it surged to 10-15 per cent. However, more than infection, the life of children was hampered due to fears, and subsequent lockdowns affected their studies and other activities, scarring their childhood memories.

“The news is very encouraging. I am very much sure that this initiative will be a game changer to protect our children and adolescents,” Dr Sujeet Ranjan, Head Nutrition, Tata Trusts told News portal.

“In India, best efforts have been put into protecting children after the warning from the experts and the dangerous second wave. With schools reopening in many states for certain age groups, the vaccine for children 2-18 years will help them return to normal,” he added.

However, some experts have also raised concerns.“While it is reassuring to know that the vaccine has worked well in children, rollout in children must be scheduled only when we are confident that adults who are at greater risk of more severe illness have acquired immunity in large numbers,” Public Health Foundation of India President K. Srinath Reddy told a news portal.

“Children who are immunocompromised may be given early jabs. Only in 2022, we will be able to judge the need for, and benefits of, mass vaccination in children. Evidence will be available by then, from different countries,” he added

The two-dose Covaxin will be administered to children with the gap of 28 days between first and second dose. The vaccine dosage for children would be 0.5ml, the same as for adults.

The SEC panel has recommended the company to continue the study according to the approved protocols. The panel has also asked the company to submit the safety data, which also includes the data on adverse events, or side-effects every fortnight for the first two months and monthly thereafter

Covaxin is the second Covid-19 vaccine to be approved for emergency use among children in India after Zydus Healthcare’s ZyCoV-D for children above the age of 12. However, Covaxin is one of the first vaccines to be approved worldwide for children of the 2-18 age group.

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