Thursday, Jul 07, 2022
Covid Scare

Covid-19 In Children: Should India Start Vaccinating Kids Under 12?

While India is still struggling to vaccinate children in 12-15 age group, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US have been recommending COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 and older for sometime now.

Vaccinating children need of the hour?
Vaccinating children need of the hour? PTI

Covid-19 cases have been on the rise in Delhi. On Saturday, the capital recorded nearly 26 per cent jump in the number of COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours with a positivity rate of 5.33 per cent. The city saw 461 fresh cases and two deaths.

And one of the most worrying aspects of the recent surge, especially in cities like Delhi, is the rise in positive cases among children. While the hospitalisation due yo Covid-19 is at a record low at 0.52 percent, reoorts suggest that 27 percent of these cases in Delhi are children. 

As per data from the Delhi Corona App on Saturday, 51 people were admitted in hoositals across Delhi due to Covid. Out of these, Times of India reported that at least 14 were children. The report, however, cited that mosf of the minor Covid patients had to be admitted since they had comorbidities or other underlying health problems. 

Vaccinations - Where we stand

India on April 10 began administering precaution doses of COVID-19 vaccines to all aged above 18 years at private vaccination centres.

A total of 31,818 precaution doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered to those aged 18-59 years on Saturday, taking the count of these jabs to 1,42,613, according to Union health ministry data.

 The next phase of vaccination commenced from January 3 for adolescents in the age group of 15-18 years. 

The country began inoculating children aged 12-14 from March 16 and also removed the comorbidiy clause making all people aged above 60 years eligible for the precaution dose of Covid vaccine. However, as per recent data, vaccinations in this age group are moving at a snail's pace in several places including big cities like Lucknow which till Saturday had only achieved 17 percent of the target vaccinations in the age group. 

Vaccinating children : What courts said

The issue of vaccinating children below 12 years of age was raised during the hearing of a PIL filed on behalf of a 12-year-old girl and another in January this year, seeking directions for the immediate vaccination of those in the 12-17 age group on the ground that there were fears that the third wave of COVID-19 could affect them more. The high court had earlier said it would be a “disaster” if COVID-19 vaccines are administered, especially to children, without clinical trials and had asked the Centre to quickly vaccinate kids below 18 years of age once the trials are over as the whole nation is waiting for it. 

Following the plea, the Delhi High Court to direct the Central government to give a road map for vaccinating children of the age group of 12 years and below for COVID-19. A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh said it would hear the plea on March 22. At present, the government is due to submit a report on the status of children's vaccinations. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla on March 22 said the status report be filed within 3 weeks and listed the matter for further hearing on May 12. 

During the initial hearings of the petition, advocate Vasudev appearing for the petitioners, submitted that more than 50 percent of children are not able to go to schools as they are yet to be vaccinated which is a serious issue.

Should parents be worried

Amid concerns over children getting infected with coronavirus as schools reopened, health experts said there was no need to panic they mostly have mild illnesses and recover with just symptomatic treatment. 

Speaking to PTI, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria and others stressed the need to maintain Covid-appropriate behaviour and protocols such as wearing masks, aocial distancing, sanitizing and hand washing. They also stressed the importance of getting vaccinations for children whi are eligible at the earliest.

 Allaying fears, however, Guleria said there was no need to panic even in case a child is not yet vaccinated.

"There is no need to panic as data from past waves have clearly shown that children, even if they contract COVID-19, have mild illness and recover spontaneously with just symptomatic treatment," Guleria told PTI .  

The information has remained unchanged through ghe emergence of new variants and there isn't yet evidence to support any cause for concern this time. 

Is it safe to vaccinate children under 12? 

While India is still struggling to vaccinate children in 12-15 age group, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US have been recommending COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 and older for sometime now. Johns Hopkins Medicine has also encouraged all families vaccinate children who are eligible. At present, Pfizer’s vaccine is the only approved COVID-19 vaccine for children in the US. 

According to experts, vaccinations for children have nany benefits including curbing the spread of Covid-19, enquiring symptoms are mild and reducing risk of future variants among others.

(With inputs from PTI)