In August this year, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) gave a go ahead to Zydus Cadila for its COVID-19 vaccine – ZyCoV-D. The vaccine was also meant for children aged 12 years and above.
Two months later, in October, the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) had recommended the approval of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin for kids between 2 and 18 years.
But children under the age of 18 are yet to be vaccinated in India. What's causing the delay? Here's all you need to know.
Why is ZyCOV-D not available for children yet?
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has reportedly placed orders for the purchase of one crore doses of Zydus Cadila's three-dose COVID vaccine, the company said in a statement on 8 November. The vaccine will be purchased by the Centre at Rs 265 per dose, the company added.
According to multiple reports, negotiation over pricing caused the delay.
However, the vaccine is still not available at both government and private vaccine centres.
What about Covaxin?
The SEC gave a recommendation to the DGCI for the use of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin for 2-18-year-olds, on 12 October.
But one month on, the DGCI approval has still not come in.
The Indian Express on 15 November quoted a government official stating that the DCGI has sought additional information on two subjects related to clinical trials of Covaxin on children:
The number of participants in each age groups.
Details of the adverse events that occurred after vaccination in these age groups.
Will Zydus be rolled out only for children?
We do not know yet. On 9 November, The Times of India quoted a senior official saying that the Zydus Cadila vaccine for kids would be rolled out only when official guidelines are released.
The government is reportedly concerned that there may not be enough doses to cover both adults and children. Due to this, it is likely to be rolled out only after Covaxin approval.
What experts are saying about delay?
Dr Gautam Menon, Professor of Physics and Biology at Ashoka University, told FIT, "there is much less data for vaccines in children than there is for adults at the moment."
"There is as yet no clear data on the advantages of vaccinating children in terms of preventing adverse outcomes, since infections in children are very largely mild ones."
In an interview with FIT in October, virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang, who is also a member of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), said that she does not think that healthy children need the corona vaccine right now.
Do we know when the guidelines will be issued?
Not yet. Watch this space for more information.
Is vaccination of children mandatory?
We do not know this yet. Notably, the Centre has not made it mandatory for those above 18 to be vaccinated against COVID-19 either. A detailed SOP by the Centre will give more clarity.
(With inputs from FIT)