Covaxin has shown that it has a very good immune response in children in trials, Dr N K Arora, chairman of Covid Task Force working group, National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), said on Sunday.
In an exclusive interview on the Prime Minister's decision on rolling out vaccination for beneficiaries between 15-18 years of age, which going to commence from January 3, Arora told ANI about the possible benefits of this decision.
He explained, "Children between the age of 12 and 18 years, particularly those in the age group of 15 to 18 years, are very much like adults. Our research within the country also says that almost two-thirds of the deaths below 18 years which occurred due to COVID in India are within this age group. So, this decision was mainly taken to protect the adolescents."
Dr Arora said, "There are two other advantages of immunising adolescents. One is that they are quite mobile, they have to go to the school colleges and their risk of getting an infection, particularly in the light of Omicron, is present."
"Secondly, many times these adolescents get infection into their households where elderly and those with comorbidities can get infected. So, in view of all this, the country has decided to introduce vaccination for children between 15 to 18 years," he said.
As Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has given Emergency Use Authorisation for Bharat Biotech's Covaxin for beneficiaries between 15-18 years of age, Dr Arora said that during trials vaccine has shown good immune response.
"The point is that we have a vaccine, which is approved for children. Covaxin has shown that it has a very good immune response in children in trials. In fact, it is slightly better than adults.
"Secondly, this vaccine is a safe vaccine, and even local effects like pain, swelling in the arms is much less as compared to adults. We would like to offer this protection to our adolescents," he said.
The doctor said, "Although the disease's effects are much milder, but as we know many schools have opened. A lot of parents are still not very confident in sending their children to schools.
"So this vaccination drive will also be giving confidence to them. I would say it's a great New Year gift for our adolescents."
In children, an immunogenicity study, not an efficacy study is present at the moment.
On the efficacy of Covaxin for children, he said, "So, in children, we have an immunogenicity study, not an efficacy study. So immunogenicity means what level of antibodies are produced, and we know that there is a reasonably good relationship between antibody levels and protection.
"In fact, as I said, adolescents produce better levels of antibodies as compared to their adults. Here, I would also like to say that the same Covaxin dose is given to children as an adult and the interpretation between the doses is also four weeks.
"So as far as implementation of the programme is concerned, there is no special effort required. And immunisation of these adolescents can be started within a short period without much or a specific preparation."
The number of doses for adolescents will be the same, Dr Arora said.