As India witnesses a surge in coronavirus cases once again, the Covid-19 working group of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) will meet at noon on Wednesday to discuss reducing the gap between the second dose and the precaution dose for people traveling abroad as well as vaccinations for 5-12 and 6-12 age groups.
Last week, India’s drug regulator DCGI granted emergency use authorisation for Biological E’s Covid-19 vaccine Corbevax for those aged five to 12 years and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for children in the age group of six to 12 years. Following this, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya informed that the “decision (on vaccination for 5-12 age group) will be taken on the basis of the recommendation of an expert committee”.
However, the NTAGI meeting on Friday remained inconclusive about firming up SoP and detailed guidelines for vaccination.
If NTAGI finds the data satisfactory, it may pave the way for the inclusion of younger children in the national immunisation mission.
India has so far vaccinated 29.1 million children in the age group 12-14 years, and 101 million in the 15-17 age bracket.
As cases rise and offline schools resume, Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week noted that vaccinating all eligible children at the earliest is a priority for the government and specialised programmes needed to be conducted in schools to achieve this feat.
News18.com had earlier reported that NTAGI may recommend conducting a serosurvey among children to check the antibody levels before taking the final decision to start vaccinating those aged 5-12 years for Covid-19.
“There is a lot of uncertainty among the members on whether it is right to kick-start the vaccination drive among children as young as 5-6 years old,” a member of NTAGI told News18.com. “But with the fresh surge in cases due to Omicron sublineages, the members have recommended conducting a survey to check the antibody levels among children.”
On the issue of gaps between doses, an official was quoted as saying by news agency PTI: “Taking into account the scientific evidence and findings of the studies done here and internationally, some experts are of the view that the gap can be reduced from the current nine months to six months for all.”
“Besides, the (health) ministry has received several representations seeking to allow for administration of precaution dose of Covid vaccine for those who have to urgently travel for employment, taking admission in foreign educational institutions, participating in sports tournaments, in bilateral, multilateral meetings as part of India’s official delegation or for attending business commitments,” the source said.