- ZyCoV-D has been approved for use in children between 12 and 17 in India
- Children with comorbidities to get COVID vaccine from October: Dr Arora
- Schools should be reopened gradually in the next 4-6 months, said Dr Arora
New Delhi: On Wednesday (August 25) evening, India crossed the milestone of administering 60 crore COVID vaccine doses, informed Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on the microblogging site Twitter. India is now only behind China in terms of the number of doses administered so far, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins. Despite this, just over 30 per cent of the population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As per the analysis, to stop the third wave and vaccinate at least 60 per cent of the population with both doses by December 2021, the required rate of vaccination is 10.9 million doses a day. The average of the last seven days is 4.8 million a day.
India’s target is to vaccinate all adult population, about 94 crore people, by the year end. But at the current rate of vaccination, it seems difficult. Explaining the vaccination plan, Dr NK Arora, Chairman of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation in India, said,
Last month we had administered 47 crores vaccine doses. This month, so far, 13 crores have been administered against the commitment of around 15 crores. It’s expected that in September we should be able to immunise 20 crore people; in October another 30 crore and in November and December 35 crore per month. So, that should add up to around 1.8 billion doses or so. As far as capacity to deliver vaccines is concerned, that’s not a problem. We have an experience from polio where in a week’s time we administered 17 crore doses which means 2-2.5 core individuals can be immunised.
Elaborating on the challenge in the vaccination programme, Dr Arora highlighted the delay in vaccine production by 6 weeks due to some glitch in Bharat Biotech’s vaccine plant and said,
We hope that by September first week things should normalise. There should be an exponential increase in vaccine production from Bharat Biotech plants. Both Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech will remain our major suppliers. At the moment, vaccine production is much less than the expected numbers. As I understand, the country should be able to deliver about 20 crore doses next month. Also, Sputnik’s production in India is due to take place in September so that will also join.
COVID-19 Vaccination For Children
Zydus Cadila’s COVID-19 vaccine ZyCoV-D has been given emergency use authorisation (EUA) for use in everyone aged 12 and above. ZyCov-D is the first COVID vaccine to be approved for children in India. Talking about ZyCoV-D which is the first DNA vaccine, Dr Arora said,
Firstly, we should feel very proud that it is the first DNA vaccine. It is a new technology platform. India has been a front runner in getting this technology and it is likely to influence many new vaccines in the coming years and decades. That way I think it’s a major scientific achievement for the country. Secondly, the vaccine is safe, well-tolerated and phase 3 results have shown an efficacy rate of 66.6 per cent for symptomatic disease. What is important is that in severe disease that is hospitalisation, the data is showing almost 100 per cent effectiveness.
Further talking about the expected rollout of the said vaccine and its administration in children, Dr Arora shared the information provided by Zydus Cadila and said that the vaccine will be rolled out in the first or second week of October. About a crore of doses per month will be available and obviously, we will be planning for adult roll out in the national COVID programme, he said.
There are around 12 crore children in the age group of 12-17 year and another 30-32 crore are below 12 years of age. So, pediatric vaccination for healthy children will be taken up only after adult immunisation is complete. However, we shall come out with a list of comorbidities in children because when COVID occurs in them, the risk of mortality and severe disease increases. And that will come up before the rollout of the vaccine so these children (12-17-year-old), who have comorbidities will be offered the vaccine from October onwards. But regular pediatric vaccination, I hope it will be in the first quarter of 2022, said Dr NK Arora.
When Can Children Return To Schools?
Various states including Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have started the process of reopening schools. But according to the report, prepared by a committee of experts constituted under the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) which works under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), children might be at a similar risk as adults in the next COVID wave and calls for improving paediatric hospital facilities. The report titled ‘COVID-19 Third Wave Preparedness: Children’s Vulnerability and Recovery’, which is based on consultations with experts and secondary research, said that the risk of the third wave is upon the country which is likely to peak in October.
So is it safe for children to return to schools? Dr Arora said,
Please send your child to the school with two riders – one is the family including all adults should be immunised; secondly, teachers and all the school staff including drivers should be immunised. So that children are surrounded by a ring of protected individuals. Children have a very mild or asymptomatic disease and the risk of severe disease and death is rare and very rare. Mostly, they are a vehicle of transmission of virus which means they themselves don’t get the infection but can transmit to others. There is a lot of data where teachers and parents have died because they got the infection. But, if I have a ring like this, schools should be open in a phased manner and I would request all the parents not to be worried about the children.
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Wednesday (August 25) said that an additional 2 crore COVID vaccine doses are being made available this month and states have been requested to try vaccinating all school teachers before September 5, which is celebrated as Teachers’ Day in the country.
As the COVID-19 cases came down in June and July, there have been intense discussions to reopen schools which is why additional doses have been given for teachers, said Dr Arora.
As you have seen, gradually there have been efforts to reopen schools and there has been a statement from the Director General of ICMR that the first priority should be primary schools. They are at least risk. However, the states have to decide. I would say, next four to six months is the time that in a graduated manner schools should be opened, said Dr Arora.
While signing off, Dr Arora urged not to worry about general immunisation of children as now we have the first COVID vaccine for children with comorbidities and hopefully, Covaxin’s paediatric formulation will be available somewhere towards the latter part of October.
Less than one per cent of all the children are at risk and I think that can be taken care of very well with the available vaccines, he said.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.