The government could announce guidelines for vaccinating children against the coronavirus by the end of next week, it is learned. About 70 per cent of the country’s adult population has now received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Top government sources who are part of the scientific deliberations on this question told The Indian Express that a decision on vaccinating children — including the framing of guidelines on prioritising categories of recipients and timeline of the phased rollout — will be taken in the first half of this month.
The sources also said that results of clinical trials of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin in children are expected to be submitted to the regulator for emergency use approval “around October 20-21”.
The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVEC) is expected to receive scientific recommendations from the Covid-19 standing committee of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) in the next few days, it is learned.
NEGVEC “will study and make a decision” on which category of recipients Zydus Cadila’s three-dose ZyCoV-D DNA vaccine, which has been approved for children older than 12 years, will be used in the first phase, the sources said.
As schools and colleges reopen in phases, the vaccination of children, especially those with comorbidities, will be key. The government guidelines, out in the first half of this month, will present the template for the process, including prioritisation and vaccination timelines.
NEGVEC is chaired by Dr V K Paul, head of India’s Covid-19 task force, and co-chaired by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan.
NTAGI is the nation’s top advisory body on immunization.
The sources said NTAGI has examined the scientific data on comorbidities among children and the size of this vulnerable group. “On the Zydus vaccine, we are looking at the recommendation of the NTAGI, on which category of children it has to be used in the first phase. They have looked at the comorbidities. That (recommendation) should come any day now. Once it comes, we will study and make a decision,” they said.
The Covaxin phase 2-3 paediatric study results are expected to arrive a week after the guidelines on vaccination of children. The study to evaluate safety, reactogenicity, and immunogenicity is being conducted on healthy volunteers above the age of 2 at six sites across the country.
A third vaccine that will be tested in children in India is Covovax, the Indian version of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by the US-based Novavax, which will be manufactured by Serum Institute of India. Trials of this recombinant nanoparticle protein-based vaccine, technically named NVX-CoV2373, will be conducted at 23 sites across the country. Trials of Biological E’s Corbevax is also expected to take place in children at 10 sites in India.