Published: 22nd December 2021
Available data shows no urgency: Why the NTAGI wants to delay vax jabs for children in India
The Centre is presently reviewing its COVID-19 vaccination plan and it was expected to take a decision by December-end on booster shots and vaccines for children
Vaccination for children may be delayed further as members of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation in India (NTAGI) have felt that there is no need to inoculate children against COVID-19 and available data shows no urgency. The Centre is presently reviewing its COVID-19 vaccination plan and it was expected to take a decision by December-end on booster shots and vaccines for children. Now a decision may be taken only sometime later next year.
Speaking to TNIE, Dr Jayaprakash Muliyil, a member of the committee, said discussions are continuing over this but, as of now, looking at the data across the world, there is no urgency to vaccinate children. "From the data across the world and in India, there are very few children below 12 years of age who died due to COVID. The COVID-related deaths among children in India have been due to other serious illnesses like cancer, leukaemia etc, and cannot be attributed to COVID-19 complications. They would not have survived even if they were vaccinated," said Dr Muliyil, Professor, Christian Medical College, Vellore, and one of the country's leading epidemiologists.
According to him, the experts on the committee observed that the serosurvey results in India have also found that a majority of the children have been infected during the Delta-dominated second wave. When a vaccine is approved, it is important to look into risks versus benefits. "Considering that we are talking of children, it was deliberated that the ratio of major benefits is not seen in giving them vaccinations and a small risk may then get magnified," he explained.
When asked if the emergence of the new variant of concern, Omicron, would play a role in approving vaccines for children, he said there is no data to prove this and added that he was not aware of children having any complications.
Speaking about the need for booster dose, he said that data from countries like the UK and the US has shown that even those with three doses of vaccines have got infected with Omicron and hence “preventing infection won’t be possible even with a booster. Also, in India, most of us have acquired natural immunity and a good number of people have been vaccinated.”
However, he also clarified that no report has been submitted to the Centre yet and these were the deliberations of the working group. "We will not say never give vaccines to children. That cannot be said. It is a process and discussions are happening still,” he added. The authorities had earlier green-lighted two COVID-19 vaccines for children — Covaxin and ZyCoV-D. However, these are yet to become available for the public.