SII to launch COVID-19 vaccine for children in 6 months
The Serum Institute of India is looking to launch a COVID-19 vaccine for children in six months, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said Tuesday. The vaccine will be available for those below the age of 18 "all the way down to the age of three." The vaccine—named Covovax—is currently undergoing trials. Poonawalla made the comments while speaking virtually at the 27th CII Partnership Summit 2021.
- Poonawalla's comments came at a time when the reopening of schools across the country necessitates the need to cover children in vaccination drives.
- Furthermore, the emergence of new coronavirus variants has also raised concerns as many believe lack of vaccination among children makes them more vulnerable.
- However, the government is yet to come up with a formal policy on vaccinating children.
Poonawalla said Covovax is under trial and has "shown excellent data all the way down to the age group of three." Notably, the SII is currently conducting phase II/III trials of Covovax among 920 children in the 3-17 age group. The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) had in July recommended granting permission for Covovax trials in the 2-17 age group with certain conditions.
Two companies in India had been licensed for children's vaccines, Poonawalla said. "You should take and get your children vaccinated. There is no harm, these vaccines have been proven to be safe and efficacious," he said. However, he asked people to wait for the government announcement on vaccinating children and "go ahead with that."
Poonawalla further said the impact of Omicron is yet to be seen in children, and no children have been impacted very badly by the variant. "I think their body, cells, and their lungs recover better, and fortunately, the panic isn't there for children," he added. Overall, he said the world is "better prepared" after facing several waves of outbreaks.
Omicron is definitely more infectious and will spread quickly, Poonawalla said, adding that it will take time to ascertain the severity of Omicron. "The initial reports show that it is quite mild. However, we should not take it lightly," he added. However, he said a booster vaccine doses will "certainly" enhance the protection against the virus at least "for five to six months."
Zydus Cadila's ZyCoV-D has been granted emergency approval for restricted use in children aged 12 years and above. It is yet to be rolled out. An expert panel has also cleared COVAXIN for restricted use among those aged 2-18 years. However, it is yet to receive a regulatory nod. Biological E and Johnson and Johnson are also conducting phase II/III vaccine trials on children.