As the threat of new Covid-19 variants looms large, Covishield manufacturer Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla assured that the vaccine for children aged between 3 to 18 years of age will be launched within six months. Vaccination for children is even more important in the context of schools opening up and Board exams due in the next few months.
Poonawalla was speaking at 27th COO Partnership Summit 2021 where he made the announcement and informed that Covovax meant for vaccination of children below 18 is under trial. He also assured that the vaccine is safe for children and one needs to wait for Government announcement to go ahead with vaccination. He further said the latest variant of concern, Omicron, has not impacted children very badly as their body, cells and lungs recover better.
Serum received a nod to conduct stage 2 and 3 trials for its vaccine on children between age 2 and 17 years in July with certain conditions. Currently trials are underway on 920 children at various facilities.
The Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on December 3 announced that the Parliament will take a decision on vaccination of children on the basis of recommendations from two key expert groups on vaccine administration.
Meanwhile, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) gave its nod to another vaccine contender ZyCoV-D for emergency use of children as young as 12 years or more. Biological E Ltd is also undergoing clinical trials on 624 children in the 5-18 age group for vaccine targeting RBD of RBD of SARS-CoV-2 gene. Johnson & Johnson trial for ‘Ad.26COV.2S’ trial is being conducted on children in India as well as part of a global trial.
Talking about the Omicron threat, Poonawalla said the world is better prepared with adequate health systems, oxygen supply, vaccines and lessons learnt from the first two waves to face the third or fourth waves. As for India, it is facing just 8,000 to 10, 000 cases per day, and majority being of Delta variant.
Without making a firm prediction she said that with a third dose one can definitely enhance protection of the immune system against new variants , at least for five to six months. He however also pointed out that Omicron is more infectious and spreads faster and one should not take it lightly even when initial reports suggest it to be quite mild in nature.