These concerns come at a time when several Indian states have reported a shortage of vaccines for the 18-44 age group. A section of the medical community in Bengaluru as in other parts of the country are asking for safe and efficient vaccines for children to be made available ahead of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. This,as they are expecting children to be the most vulnerable section of the population in the third wave. It should be noted that schools, especially for junior classes, have largely remained closed since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Currently in India, ZyCoV-D and Covaxin is under trial for children above the age of 12. In certain nations like the US, Canada and Singapore, vaccines like Pfizer have already been approved for the use for children above the age 12. Dr. Mayuri Yeole, associate consultant of Paediatrics said vaccination is important not only for immunity but overall well being of children too. “Vaccination will not only help boost their immunity, but also make attending schools and outing stress-free. It will help them live their childhood, and not be confined within four walls.” Like the flu vaccine, it seems essential to have a Covid-19 vaccine for children too while it may not prevent children from contracting the novel coronavirus, it will help reduce the morbidity and mortality which we are anticipating with the third wave. Some experts are of the belief that the government should currently focus on vaccinating the 18 and above population at first in wake of large scale vaccine shortage, as they see children as less likely to have severe diseases.
While consolidated pan India data on children’s mortality due to Covid-19 is not available, according to Karnataka government data, 105 persons of the age group 1-19 years have died due to Covid-19. In Mumbai, the number of deaths between 1-19 years of age group was 52. Usually, the children who pass away have had chronic illness and were already vulnerable. across the globe, the rate of death and even hospitalisation among children is significantly lower. It was found that the infections in children were slightly higher but statically insignificant compared to adults. Serosurvey detects presence of antibodies and not virus which means that children were exposed to the virus at the similar degree but they were highly asymptomatic.
Instead of prioritising children’s vaccination over the population of 18, the government shoul focus on pressing areas of malnutrition, immunisation against basic diseases in children. We cannot compare ourselves with the West where many places even have surplus vaccines while our children are dying due to lack of access to basic nutrition. We are creating unnecessary panic when we have vaccinated only 3% of the population fully. we should focus on frontline workers, the over 60 age group, and then the people with comorbidities should be prioritised. There is no urgency to vaccinate children as they are less prone to severe disease. One reason is that their immune system is under development. And they are given vaccines like MMR, chicken pox and H1N1 and others. So, unlike older people, their immunity systems are much more active. If we don’t vaccinate the parents first, there will be difficulty in managing the children. So, if we can protect the parents, to a large extent, we can naturally prevent infection among children.