In his address to the nation on Saturday, 25 December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that children in the age group of 15-18 years can get vaccinated starting 3 January.
In recent weeks, as the number of Omicron cases rose, the country had been seeing a demand to vaccinate children – a vulnerable group.
We spoke to healthcare experts to understand what they have to say about vaccination for children and whether or not it is necessary.
Experts On Vaccination For Kids
While higher infections are indeed being reported amongst children, until there's enough evidence to prove that they are getting seriously affected, there is no reason to panic yet, Dr Srinath Reddy, President of Public Health Foundation of India told The Quint.
"Not only entry into the children's cells is more likely now, but they are also getting more infected because they were not exposed to the virus previously. Children are getting infected but are they getting seriously infected? Right now we have no such information. Obviously if children have the infection, they are being taken to the hospitals for a check up and therefore the numbers are being reported. But till we know if they are getting seriously infected, we shouldn’t start to get too worried."
"Many trials are showing that the previous versions of the vaccines are beneficial and safe and it’s possible that when we have enough number of vaccines, we’ll also get into vaccinating children in large numbers. But right now with the supplies that we have, we have to focus on giving every adult two doses, or those immunocompromised, elderly and health workers," Dr Reddy added, speaking about vaccination for children.
Speaking on whether there's a need to accelerate children's vaccination, Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, epidemiologist and health systems expert, said:
"All the variants had different characteristics but the age distribution of the cases did not alter. If the original variant affected the elderly, the subsequent variant also affected elderly. Children were not affected by the variant differently, they were affected at the same proportion at a low rate unless proven otherwise."
"It is widely known why children are not being vaccinated. Vaccines prevent severe illness, hospitalisation and death which are already low in children. Having said that, it doesn’t mean children will never need vaccines. They will need vaccines that can reduce transmissions. Similarly, children who are at higher risk should be vaccinated and that’s a process," he said.