Kids will have to wait for a COVID-19 vaccine

The primary objective was to get the adult vaccine as children rarely have a severe form of the disease.
Once schools reopen, the demand for vaccines for children under 12 may soar.
Sohini Das reports.

The pandemic year has turned the conventional way of developing vaccines on its head.

Though immunisation worldwide is a paediatric medical event, the first COVID-19 shots developed were for people aged 18 years and above.

Work on paediatric versions of the vaccine, however, is not far behind, according to vaccine manufacturers in the race.

A leading vaccine maker, which is in the final leg of developing a vaccine, says: “Once the immunisation programme starts and one can observe the vaccines in use on a mass-scale, the safety of these investigational products would be established beyond doubt. It is around the middle of the next year, that one would plan to start clinical trials for children.”

“Work on paediatric vaccine candidates should start around July or so. Global majors like Pfizer-BioNTech have started trials on subjects aged 12 years and above already,” a vaccine industry expert said, adding that a paediatric vaccine may be ready by the end of 2021.

Moderna has also started testing its vaccine on those aged between 12 and 17 years.

Till COVID-19 struck, adult vaccination had mostly been limited to flu shots, pneumonia or cervical cancer preventive jabs.

India has a handful of vaccine developers like Zydus Cadila, Bharat Biotech, Gennova Biopharmaceuticals, and Serum Institute of India.

Of these, Serum Institute’s trials for Covishield in India were on 1,600 people aged 18 and above.

Zydus Cadila, too, is testing on subjects 18 years and above.

Bharat Biotech, however, is testing its whole virus inactivated vaccine, a tech in use for decades, on subjects aged 12 years and above.

A spokesperson said Bharat Biotech would conduct paediatric clinical trials once the regulator allows.

Bharat Biotech Chairman and Managing Director Krishna Ella said: “Our vaccine is safe, and built on time-tested and proven technology. It can be given to a six-month-old or a 60-year-old.”

Vaccine industry insiders said the primary objective was to get the adult vaccine out in the market as children rarely have a severe form of the disease.

Once schools reopen, the demand for vaccines for children under 12 years is likely to soar.

While children may remain asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, they are the likely carriers to the adults, said a vaccine maker.

According to a UNESCO estimate, around 321 million Indian children were asked to stay home when the lockdown began at the end of March.

*Kindly note the image has been posted only for representational purposes.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/ Rediff.com

 

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