Updated: December 15, 2021 7:12:08 am
With the opening of schools across the country underscoring the need for the Covid vaccination drive to cover children, Covishield manufacturer Serum Institute of India’s CEO Adar Poonawalla said Tuesday that SII is planning to launch a vaccine for those below the age of 18 “all the way down to the age of three” within the next six months.
Speaking at the 27th CII Partnership Summit 2021 during a virtual conference, Poonawalla said the vaccine, Covovax, is under trial.
“We are going to be launching a vaccine in six months for children all the way down to the age of three… At the moment, Covishield is not recommended or approved in people below the age of 18 so that’s why Covovax is under trials and has shown excellent data all the way down to the age group of 3,” he said.
Poonawalla said that while the impact of Omicron is yet to be seen in children, they have so far not been impacted very badly with this strain. “I think their body, cells and their lungs recover better and fortunately the panic isn’t there for children,” he said.
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Stating that two companies in India have been licensed for children’s vaccines, which would be available soon, Poonawalla said: “…you should take and get your children vaccinated. There is no harm, these vaccines have been proven to be safe and efficacious and all of that. If you feel you want to get your children vaccinated, by all means, wait for Government announcements on that, and you go ahead with that. Our vaccine Covovax will be launched for children in six months.”
On December 3, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told Parliament that the Government will take a decision on the basis of recommendations from its two key expert groups on vaccine administration.
The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has approved ZyCoV-D of Cadila Healthcare for restricted use in emergency situations in the age group 12 years and above.
In July, an expert panel of CDSCO had recommended the granting of permission to SII for conducting phase 2/3 trials of Covovax on children aged 2 to 17 years with certain conditions. SII is currently conducting Phase 2/3 clinical trials in 920 children in the 3-17 age group.
The regulator is currently examining a recommendation from an expert group on granting emergency use authorisation for Covaxin based on interim Phase 2/3 clinical trial data on healthy volunteers aged 2 to 18 years submitted by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech.
Besides, Biological E Ltd is conducting Phase 2/3 clinical trials of RBD of SARS-CoV-2 gene in 624 children in the 5-18 age group. And, Johnson & Johnson is conducting Phase 2/3 clinical trials of its ‘Ad.26COV.2S’ vaccine in the age group of 12-17 in India as part of a global clinical trial.
As on Tuesday, India has administered 134.57 crore cumulative vaccinations: 82.07 crore first doses and 52.49 crore second doses.
Speaking about the threat of Omicron, Poonawalla said there is no need for panic. “We are far better prepared whether it is the health system, hospitals, oxygen supply and vaccines. The world is now better prepared for third and fourth waves because we have learnt what to do and what not to do. So we are in a far better position today and I don’t think there should be panic with Omicron and other variants coming about. We should not panic just as yet, we should wait and watch how things unfold,” he said.
The SII CEO said that India is in a better position, as of now, with 8,000-10,000 new cases daily of which the majority are Delta variants. “I do not want to make predictions just yet because predictions should not be made till the time we have enough data… But what we know for certain is that if you boost with three doses, you are definitely enhancing protection in your system, at least for five to six months,” he said.
However, he pointed out that Omicron is definitely more infectious and will spread quickly. “…how severe it is going to be and how many hospitalisations it is going to cause is something that we are going to wait and watch. The initial reports show that it is quite mild. However, we should not take it lightly,” he said.
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