New Delhi: Health experts in Chennai are of the opinion that children and teenagers across the country should be vaccinated against COVID-19 at the earliest after conducting trials. This comes as studies conducted by the Tamil Nadu State Public Health revealed that the Delta Covid variant has led to a majority of positive cases in the state.
According to the studies, children and teenagers are more vulnerable to the Delta variant.Also Read - Third Wave of COVID-19 Definitely Underway in UK, Delta Variant Dominant: Vaccine Expert

A report by Department said that out of the 554 samples tested for genomic sequencing to identify the Delta variant, 386 were found to have been infected by the strain. Also Read - AIIMS Chief Randeep Guleria Says COVID Third Wave Inevitable, Could Hit India in 6 to 8 Weeks

Of the 386, 86 were below the age of 18. This meant that around 22 per cent of all those tested were under 18 years of age. Also Read - Third COVID Wave Unlikely to Affect Children in India, Finds WHO-AIIMS Study

Suchitra Menon, a virologist based out of Chennai, said, “Children have to be inoculated at the earliest after conducting proper trials and vaccines. There is no data that points out towards any danger to children on being vaccinated. However, there are certain vaccines which are not safe for children and this has to be studied in detail.”

Experts suggested that children studying in higher secondary classes in the 15 to 17 age group should be inoculated in the first round after conducting vaccine trials.

Experts suggest importing vaccines for children right now

“In India, a vaccine approved for inoculating children may take time up to December but there are options of importing the jab and inoculate the kids,” Menon added.

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi is conducting trials on vaccines for the under 18 year age category and research is also underway at the Serum Institute of India, Pune.

However, the experts have said that this might take time and at this stage it will only be possible only with the support of imported vaccines.

The Chinese Sinovac vaccine has provided excellent results in vaccinating children and Pfizer is also found to be effective, according to the experts.

They however, said that importing these vaccines depend on the policies of the Union government.

Deepesh Raj, a virologist with a leading Medical College in Madurai, said: “There has to be a political decision for inoculating children and as told earlier by experts, in India a vaccine for children is likely to be ready only by December and with the possibility of Delta variant striking, the need for inoculating children under the age group of 18 has become very important.

“Let there be a decision at the higher level on whether the vaccines meant for children and teenagers is to be imported or not.”

While experts are not clear on the possibility of a third wave and whether it could affect children and teenagers, the Tamil Nadu Health Department has already raked up the number of paediatric facilities across the state to counter a probable third wave.

Harikumar Muthuswamy, who is a public health expert in the US and presently in Erode, told IANS: “The government must take steps to have all the health infrastructure ready for a probable third wave. There are differences among the experts across the globe on whether this could affect the children or not. Anyway preparing for a probability is not a crime and one should be ready for that.”

(With inputs from IANS)