Bharat Biotech is on the verge of becoming the second Indian vaccine manufacturer to gain emergency use permission for a children’s Covid vaccination in the domestic market. Covaxin, the company’s vaccine, is already being used in the national programme. It has provided about 111 million doses, or 11.49 percent of Covid’s total immunisation coverage. An expert committee of the medicines authority has given conditional clearance to the company’s vaccination for youngsters. The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization will have to give final permission and authorization before it can be included in the national programme.
Zydus Cadila’s vaccine had previously been approved for children aged 12 and above. If it receives emergency use approval, Covaxin will be available to children ages 2 to 18. These advances come at a good moment. India’s Covid immunisation programme has now fully immunised about 29.2 percent of the adult population. Prioritizing groups at higher risk was a key component of the vaccine programme. A similar campaign to vaccinate youngsters is now required. According to WHO data, children under the age of 15 accounted for 8% of worldwide cases between December 30, 2019 and September 6, 2021. As a result, the Covid containment plan must include a safeguard for this group.
That said, the absence of an emergency approval from WHO till date for Covaxin is mystifying. Two vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm using the same inactivated vaccine platform have got this approval. WHO approval is a prerequisite for other benefits. It opens the door to vaccine passports and also export opportunities. Bharat Biotech needs to get past this hurdle at the earliest by satisfying WHO’s data requirements. Till it happens, it inconveniences millions of Indians who have been vaccinated with Covaxin and may now need to travel for work or to study.