Vaccinate children if supplies are sufficient: Expert

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Children in India should be vaccinated against Covid-19 if the supplies are available after vaccinating eligible adults, quoting an expert  news agency IANS reported.

Though vaccination for children is critical for the country to reach herd immunity to stop the pandemic children should be vaccinated if supplies are sufficient, said Dr. Krishna Reddy Nallamalla, an eminent cardiologist.

He also called for a robust surveillance system to address safety concerns. National policies on vaccinating children have to address global inequities and priority setting in the context of demand-supply mismatch, he said.

Dr. Reddy, who is President, InOrder, South Asia, a non-profit institute working to strengthen systems to secure health, pointed out that governments across the world are adopting a policy of giving priority to people at risk for higher rates of hospitalization and death in the face of vaccine supplies not commensurate to the needs.

Global bodies are also urging nations to consider priority setting in the global context and not just in national or subnational context as the world is not safe until enough proportion of the world population has immune protection.

“These pose ethical dilemmas to policy makers in every country. The same ethical dilemma is playing out in the context of vaccination for children. We have to ensure that the most vulnerable (elderly, people with multiple morbidities, and people with compromised immunity) receive mandated doses of vaccines before we consider Covid vaccines for children. The same ethical dilemma is in the case of giving booster doses,” said Dr. Krishna Reddy, who is also Regional Director, ACCESS Health International.

“Children should be vaccinated if the supplies are available after vaccinating eligible adults. Though children have very low risk for developing moderate to severe illness, infected children can continue the viral transmission to unvaccinated vulnerable adults. In addition, it will enable children to attend their schools as before. Long term physical, mental and scholastic effects of prolonged absence from schools on child development will be known only in coming years.”

All approved or emergency use authorized vaccinations have demonstrated ability in protection against moderate to severe Covid illness in people above 18 years of age. mRNA-based vaccine by Pfizer (BioNTech) has been given emergency use authorization in the United States for children above 5 years of age.

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