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No Scientific Body Suggests COVID Vaccination of Kids to be Condition to Reopen Schools: Govt

The Union government on Thursday said no scientific body suggests that vaccination of children against COVID-19 should be a condition for reopening schools, but inoculation of teachers, school employees and parents is desirable. At a press conference, NITI Aayog member (Health) V K Paul said whether children have to be vaccinated and who among them should get the jabs is an evolving scientific and public health discourse. Only a limited number of nations have introduced vaccination of children so far, he said.

Besides the aspect of vaccination, the overall epidemiological situation has to be safe for opening schools, he said. Most importantly, following standard operating procedures about ventilation, seating arrangements, staggered classes and wearing masks among others will be critical when schools reopen, Paul stressed.

“No scientific body, epidemiology, no evidence suggests that vaccination against COVID-19 should be a condition to reopen schools. However, inoculation of teachers, other school employees and parents is desirable,” he told the press conference. “There is no WHO recommendation also that we should move in that direction for reasons such as low mortality and high incidence of asymptomatic infection. We as a nation and government are working actively in the direction of scientific validation of our vaccines for potential use in children.”

Paul said that Zydus vaccine has also already been licenced for children. How and when it will be administered is being discussed by scientific bodies, Paul said, adding that the trial of Covaxin on children is nearing completion. Hyderabad-based Biological E Limited has been given permission to conduct the phase two/three clinical trial of its indigenously developed COVID-19 vaccine on children and adolescents aged between five and 18 years with certain conditions.

In July, India’s Drug Regulator also granted permission to Serum Institute of India (SII) for conducting phase two/three trials of its Covovax vaccine on children aged two to 17 years with certain conditions. “One vaccine (Zydus) has been made available for potential use in children and we are waiting for a decision from NTAGI in this regard,” Paul said.

According to sources, NTAGI will chalk out a roadmap for introducing the three-dose ZyCoV-D vaccine in the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination drive and will also develop a priority list with the focus being on adolescents aged 12-18 years with comorbidities.

NTAGI will provide the protocol and framework for the introduction of this vaccine in the COVID-19 immunisation drive, they said.

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