Updated: June 14, 2021 7:24:19 am
The government’s strategy to open up Covid-19 vaccinations to children sets out a target to progressively cover 80 per cent of the 130 million people falling in the 12-18 year age group, The Indian Express has learnt.
This would translate to the government needing to secure at least 210 million doses of a two dose vaccine.
Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine has been tested and approved in the European Union for use in adolescents aged 12-15. However, the expectation is to make use of India’s indigenous capacity to make Covaxin, which is still being tested in children, according to a senior government official.
This is because the expected supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, even if used completely for children, will fall far short of the requirement, the official said.
There is also uncertainty over how soon Pfizer’s vaccines may actually come to India, said the official, who has been closely involved in the country’s vaccination efforts.
Compared with this, Bharat Biotech is expected to be able to cater to larger orders, according to the official. The Hyderabad-headquartered vaccine maker has received permission to test its vaccine, Covaxin, in those between the ages of 2 and 18. If the tests are successful, this would allow the vaccine to cover a much wider population.
Going by the 80 per cent coverage strategy, the government would have to plan for enough vaccines to cover 104 million children to effectively protect this cohort. The exercise would, therefore, require at least 208 million doses of a two-dose vaccine. In the case of a three-dose vaccine, the requirement for vaccines would be much higher.
“Right now we’re still negotiating (with Pfizer). There is nothing that’s certain at this point … It also depends on when the vaccine arrives and what our imperatives are at that time,” the official told The Indian Express on condition of anonymity.
“What we are getting from them (Pfizer) is five crore (50 million) doses,” said the official, adding that the number of children in the 12-18 year age group are estimated to be “much more” in number.
“If we have to vaccinate (those between) 12-18 years … we must have a strategy for at least 80 per cent of them. So, this (quantity by Pfizer) will not suffice,” the official said.
“… By that time, if we have our own Covaxin qualifying (for use in children), then it is much better, because we have the availability,” the person added.
During a media briefing by the Health Ministry on June 4, NITI Aayog Member—Health Dr Vinod K Paul had said India has around 130 million children in this age group. Vaccines like Zydus Cadila’s ZyCov-D could also supply a portion of the vaccines required for immunising children, according to Paul, who also chairs the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC).
The Centre expects to have “enough data” on whether ZyCov-D can be given to children when the Ahmedabad-based company seeks licensure for it, he had said at the briefing. Going by the timeline he has given, Zydus may approach the Indian regulator with its application “hopefully” by next week.
The Centre is expecting supply of Covaxin to increase to 75 million doses per month by July, as per its internal estimates. The availability of this vaccine is expected to increase further to 122 million doses by October and then to 155 million doses by December. The expected availability of ZyCov-D is much lower at 10 million doses a month starting September and the supply is expected to increase to 13 million doses a month by November, according to the government’s estimates.
Based on this information, the Centre is expecting a supply of 626 million doses of Covaxin between July and December and an additional 47 million doses of ZyCov-D between September and December this year.
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