The Covid-19 vaccination programme for children, aged between 12 and 17, would be rolled out by October, NDTV reported on Thursday, citing the government’s coronavirus vaccine panel chief.

India’s drug regulator has granted emergency use authorisation to Zydus Cadila’s vaccine, ZyCov-D, on August 20. This is India’s first vaccine for children aged above 12.

On Thursday, the head of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group , NK Arora, said that the government will prepare a priority list before it starts to inoculate children. He added that the details of this list would be provided before the rollout.

Arora told India Today TV in an interview that children with comorbidities would be prioritised as they are more likely to develop serious coronavirus infections.

He added that Covid-19 vaccines for children without comorbidities would be available in the first half of 2022. There are about 12 crore children, between the ages of 12 and 17, of which 1% are co-morbid, Arora said.

“As for Covaxin, it is being tested on children above the age of 2,” the Covid-19 panel chief told India Today TV. “The actual rollout will happen by end of October.”

There are 44 crore children over two years old, Arora noted, adding that this was “not a small number to vaccinate”.

The ZyCov-D is the world’s first DNA vaccine against the coronavirus disease given in three doses. It makes use of a portion of the genetic code – deoxyribonucleic acid or ribonucleic acid – in the SARS-CoV-2 virus to stimulate an immune response against its spike protein, according to the Ahmedabad-headquartered company.

Spike proteins are small bumps on the viruses of the coronavirus family that assist in the infection.

The vaccine can be administered to all children and adults aged 12 and above. It is also the first Covid-19 vaccine that can be administered to children above the said age limit. Earlier in July, the company had said that the shot is “needle-free” and “safe for children”.

On August 21, the pharmaceutical company had said that will supply one crore doses of its coronavirus vaccine. Its managing director Sharvil Patel had said that the company planned to supply about 30 lakh to 40 lakh doses of ZyCov-D vaccine by September.

The interim results of the phase 3 trials of the vaccine showed an efficacy of 66.6% against symptomatic cases and 100% against moderate infection. The trial was conducted on 28,000 volunteers, including 1,400 adolescents.

Covid-19 panel chief suggests reopening of schools

Meanwhile, Arora suggested that schools could be opened up in a phased manner and advised parents and other members of the pupil’s families get vaccinated.

The Covid-19 panel chief cited a sero survey to explain that children are less likely to get severe Covid infection as compared to adults, reported NDTV. Arora said that it was necessary to reopen schools for the “intellectual development” of children.

“Children can go to schools,” he said. “There is no need for vaccination... but it is necessary to develop a shield around them – by ensuring that their parents and school staff are vaccinated,” he said.

However, a committee set up by the Union home ministry, has said that children could be affected as severely as adults, particularly because they remain unvaccinated.

“Paediatric facilities – doctors and equipment like ventilators and ambulances – are nowhere close to what may be required in case a large number of children become infected,” the National Institute of Disaster Management said in its report.

Meanwhile, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Wednesday asked the states to vaccinate all school teachers against Covid-19 on priority before September 5.

On Thursday morning, India recorded 46,164 new coronavirus cases, pushing the infection count in the country to 3,25,58,530 since the pandemic first broke out in January last year. The number of daily cases is 22.7% higher than Wednesday’s count of 37,593.

With 607 deaths, the toll climbed to 4,36,365. So far, 3,17,88,440 people have recovered from the infection. The number of active cases rose to 3,33,725.