With the number of Covid-19 cases going down in India and the majority of adults vaccinated with at least one dose, there is no urgency to inoculate children against the infection, health experts told News18.com on Thursday as the country surpassed the milestone of delivering 100 crore jabs.
As the Narendra Modi government is exercising extraordinary caution before kick-starting a vaccination drive for children, scientists and health experts have echoed similar advice.
India’s apex drugs regulator is also yet to approve Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for emergency use in children despite a recommendation from the subject expert committee (SEC) on October 12.
“Given the current level of evidence, short-term safety (from these vaccines) seems to be ensured. We do not know about the long-term safety but there is no need to vaccinate young children unless they are immunocompromised,” said Dr K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).
According to Dr Gagandeep Kang, vaccine expert and professor at the Wellcome Trust Research Laboratory, Christian Medical College (Vellore), there are many unanswered questions that India needs to deliberate on before it starts vaccinating children below 12 years of age. She pointed out that before making any move in this direction, “there should be clarity on why we want to vaccinate children and with which vaccine”.
“Should we use inactivated virus vaccines or should we wait for mRNA vaccines? There are many questions we need to deliberate on and answer appropriately. We don’t know enough about the performance of these vaccines yet. Right now, we don’t have enough data to make informed decisions,” Dr Kang said.
However, the long-term impact of mild Covid on children is not yet clear and this could become one of the primary reasons behind vaccinating younger kids.
“New literature for adults show that even mild Covid may lead to post-Covid syndromes. Looking at adult profiles of long Covid impact on different organs, we don’t know if long Covid side-effects occur in children as well,” said Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, former scientist at ICMR. “We don’t know what would be the impact of post-Covid side-effects on organs of children. Hence, India needs to look rationally and take a collective decision.”