By Geetika Sasan Bhandari
As we wrap up this year, we’ve just had another Covid positive case in our family, and in both the childrens’ schools, but my kids, who were as exposed as anyone else, did not get it. In fact, neither did anyone else in our home.
The reason I’m saying this is because in the past few months, whether it’s reopening of schools, or letting kids get back to some semblance of normalcy, everyone seems to be on the fence, pinning their hopes on the vaccine for children and putting their lives on hold till their kids are vaccinated.
The official status on that, according to the WHO is that “Covaxin, an adjuvanted inactivated vaccine developed by Bharat, was approved in India for the age indication of 12-17 years; but not yet received WHO EUL for this age indication. The Indian regulatory authorities have given approval to ZycovD, a novel DNA vaccine, for ages 12-17 years; however, this vaccine has not yet received WHO EUL.” EUL stands for Emergency Use Listing.
Several experts warn that children do not actually need the vaccine. The mortality rate from Covid for children (though India has not released any data from both the waves) is fairly low (two children per 10 lakh according to global estimates). Kids are far more susceptible to other diseases such as influenza/flu compared to Covid, and their bodies have a fairly well-developed immune system to combat the virus. Moreover, according to an article in Outlookindia titled ‘Covid-19 Vaccine For Kids? Five Reasons Why Experts Think It’s A Bad Idea‘, the author Jeevan Prakash Sharma writes, “The seroprevalence survey conducted in various parts of the country including Delhi has shown that 70 per cent to 90 per cent of kids have already been exposed to the virus and they have developed natural antibodies.” A report carried by BBC also says that “The latest data from the National Serological Survey suggests about 60% of children have been exposed to coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, and are likely to have built up some immunity from past infection.”
At the moment, US, Canada and several European countries have already started or are in the middle of robust vaccination cycles for children, but India – with the largest adolescent population in the world – is likely to start once the adult vaccination drive is over. Given that India has carried out the world’s largest vaccination drive – latest figures are 131.18 crore doses administered – parents need not worry. Children are likely to get vaccinated pretty quickly.
As we step into 2022, Omicron notwithstanding, the one thing we should leave behind with 2021 is fear. Children are not highly susceptible, their natural immunity is strong, and even if they do get Covid, it will be like a regular virus that we are all used to. For my family member who recently got it, had we not got it tested, believe me we wouldn’t have known. The symptoms were just like a regular change-of-weather viral. But it’s important to stay safe, and be responsible by getting tested so you don’t infect anyone unknowingly.
The vaccine will be available soon enough, so power your children with strength, resilience and hope. We’ve had enough years of them thinking the world is a horrible, bad place and it’s really up to us to show them that amidst all the fear and gloom, there is hope, there is cure, there is healing, and there is always faith. As I always say, children look up to us for cues on how to model their behaviour and attitudes so it’s high time we shed our insecurities and approach the new year with enthusiasm and hope. Of course, be sensible and safe, but don’t be afraid. Wishing all of us a very Happy New Year and a fabulous 2022, the year of hope. See you on the other side!
(Views are personal. The writer is former Editor of Child, and has recently launched a parenting platform called Let’s Raise Good Kids. She has two kids.)