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COVID shots for little arms: What’s the current scenario?

By HT School Web Desk,

COVID-19 vaccines are being tested for kids of various age groups in India and all over the world.

The phase II & III trials of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin for children are expected to begin in the next 10-12 days.

Amid increasing COVID-19 cases all over the country and the apprehension that children are going to be most vulnerable to the third wave, this is the first question that's bothering parents: When will kids be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus? Though this virus hasn’t been that merciless to children so far, there are reports of a few outbreaks in some schools across the country. A PTI report suggests that since the beginning of March 2021, over 470 children have been hit by COVID-19 in Bengaluru alone. A large cross section of paediatricians have also warned that the third wave of COVID-19 may affect kids very badly. All these have only deepened the worry of parents while experts are of the opinion that it is extremely important to immunise them against this deadly virus. Here is all you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines for children.  

Indian Scenario 
According to recent media reports, the Drug Controller General of India has given its nod to Bharat Biotech for the phase II and III trials of its Covaxin among 2-18-year-old children. The trials are expected to begin in the next 10-12 days. Another potential vaccine that may be expected for kids in India is ZyCoV-D.  Developed by the pharma company Zydus Cadila, this shot has been tested on children above 12 years of age. It will be administered through a needle-free injection system where a jet of high-speed fluid is used to penetrate through a fine-diameter nozzle, placed against the skin. Additionally, Pfizer, which has been approved by the US, Canada and other countries for emergency use in 12-15-year-olds, is in talks with the government to bring its vaccine for Indian kids.

Elsewhere in the world 
Researchers in the U.S. and other parts of the world have also started to run trials to test the effectiveness and safety of COVID-19 vaccine for kids in various age groups. Here is a snapshot of the global scenario for you:  

  • United States and Canada, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates have approved the emergency usage of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for children in the age bracket of 12-15 years. In the US, it has been administered to more than 60,000 children of this age group. The vaccine, which has been found to be very effective, was already authorised to be administered to 16-year-olds and above in the US.  
  • Moderna is experimenting with the dosing strategy of its COVID vaccine among healthy children in the US and Canada. The trials include children between 2-11 and 12-17 years as well as 6-month-old babies.
  • In February 2021, AstraZeneca started its vaccine trials in Britain for children 6-17 years old. However, there is no further information about it yet. 
  • In April, Johnson & Johnson also started testing its coronavirus shots among 12-17-year-olds. 

Why are kids not being vaccinated in India?  
According to the international norm of vaccine approval for children below 16 years, they can be administered only the shots developed from an inactivated virus. A vaccine created from live virus cannot be applied to them. Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, however, has been developed from an inactivated virus. The other approved COVID-19 vaccine in India, Covishield of Oxford University-AstraZeneca is an adenovirus-based shot. It causes influenza among chimpanzees. Another potential reason behind the exclusion of children from COVID-19 immunisation drive is that they weren’t a part of the clinical trials of this vaccine. Their reaction to coronavirus shots may be different from adults.  

Why is it necessary to vaccinate children?  
As of now, children haven’t been majorly affected by the novel coronavirus. They have been able to fight it off with zero to mild symptoms. However, they can be silent spreaders of the virus.  Also, they may end up catching it when schools reopen or from an an elderly person at home who hasn’t been vaccinated.  Though experts are divided in their opinion about the impact of the third wave of COVID-19 on children, it is better to be safe than sorry.  

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