- India started vaccinating adolescents (15-17 years of age) from January 3, this year. The Union Government decided to extend vaccination coverage to the adolescent group in view of the increasing cases of Omicron globally, and on the strength of the recommendations of the ‘COVID-19 Working Group of National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI)’ as well as its Standing Technical Scientific Committee.
- Registration is to be done on the CoWIN app, and walk-ins would also be allowed.
- Covaxin is the only vaccine that is now available for children, in the same configuration as used for adults, though two vaccines, including ZyCoV-D, have been cleared for use.
- All those whose birth year is 2007 or before, are now eligible for COVID vaccination.
- As per figures on the CoWIN portal, 30.8% of those in the 15-17 age group have received their first dose, as on January 8.
Do children need to get a vaccine?
- Children are relatively safe from COVID-19 and that the disease did not affect them as severely as it affected adults, basing the decision to open schools on such immunological evidence, vaccination for children had commenced in the U.S. and the U.K. Children as young as 5 years were eligible to get a shot in the U.S.
- It is the decision of the parent, but as far as safety goes, “Covaxin as such is absolutely safe, since it uses an inactivated virus.
- Efficacy also rests in the number of doses one gets —the more means better protection.”
- A virus neutralisation antibody test is done in a small sample size, and if the results are problematic, additional doses may be advisable.
Vaccine’s shelf life
- Some parents who took their children in for vaccination on day 1 to private hospitals were asked for consent to administer the vaccine since the shelf life of the vaccine to be used had been ‘extended’.
- After media reports claiming that expired vaccines were being recycled for use emerged, the Union Government sought to clarify this on January 3.
- the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation had responded to a request from Bharat Biotech to extend the shelf life of Covaxin from 9 months to 12 months.
- There was no dilution in the efficacy of the vaccines, a source in the health department added.
Does the vaccine have side effects?
- As with adults, post vaccination side effects in adolescents reported so far included fever, headache, body ache and heaviness or pain in the injected arm. Major adverse effects following immunisation have not been recorded so far.
- Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech issued a statement dissuading children from taking paracetamol to counter the side effects of the vaccine.
What’s the future?
- Immunisation experts have urged the Government to monitor all AEFI (adverse event following immunisation) carefully, and report it on a database.
- This disease is going to stay with us for a long while. Vaccination is definitely on the cards, even for children.
- We have to proceed to lower age groups, if it is safe and reasonably efficacious in 15-year-olds, it should be extended to 12 years plus, and then, to five-year-olds too.
- There is no word yet on extension for lower age groups from the Government.
The process of weakening a pathogen is called
- a) vaccination
- b) attenuation
- c) immunization
- d) virulence reduction