Covid-19 vaccination for children in India is expected to start in September, All India Institute of Medical Sciences chief Randeep Guleria told NDTV on Friday. In an interview to the news channel, Guleria said that pharmaceutical company Zydus Cadila has submitted trial data for the use of its vaccine among children.
Guleria said that even though children themselves were less vulnerable to severe Covid-19 infections, they could transmit the virus to their parents and grandparents who might be at greater risk due to co-morbidities.
“The Bharat Biotech vaccine [Covaxin] trial should get over by August or September and the Pfizer vaccine has already been approved [for children] by the FDA [Unites States Food and Drug Administration],” Guleria added.
India’s drug regulator has not yet approved any vaccine for children. The Zydus Cadila and Pfizer vaccines mentioned by Guleria have not even received approval for use among adults in India.
Earlier this month, Zydus Cadila had applied for emergency use authorisation of ZyCov-D, its three-dose coronavirus vaccine. But, the clearance is still awaited.
In a separate interview to ANI, Guleria said that there could be “multiple reasons” for delay in procuring vaccines from manufacturers such as Zydus Cadila, Moderna and Pfizer, who have been in talks with the central government for obtaining approval.
“One [of the reasons] is collaboration and the understanding with the government on the doses,” Guleria said. “But they should also have that many doses to give because these companies have pre-booked the order from many countries.”
The AIIMS director also backed a graded reopening of schools in areas where the positivity rate of Covid-19 cases is low, ANI reported. “There are a number of children who have missed out on schools for a very long time as they do not have the access to computers,” he said.
On third wave and mutant strains
“If you go by the sero survey there are still significant number of people who are susceptible [to the virus] and they have also not been vaccinated,” he said, adding that cases will rise to some extent as various parts of the country ease Covid-19 restrictions.
Guleria was referring to a recent countrywide sero survey report which showed that 67.6%, or more than two-thirds of India’s population, has been exposed to the coronavirus till now. The study suggests that at least 40 crore people in the country are still vulnerable to SARS-CoV2 – the virus that causes the coronavirus disease.
Serological surveys reveal how many people may have been infected with the novel coronavirus in an area. However, it still isn’t clear how long antibodies last in infected persons and what level of antibodies is needed to protect a person from reinfection.
As for new variants of the virus, the AIIMS chief predicted that it is not expected to mutate “dramatically” in the next few months. However, he added that as and when new mutations emerge, booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines may be needed to deal with them.
He also expressed hope that second-generation vaccines would be better in terms of providing immunity from new variants of the virus.