- Dr.KanchanChannawar, Senior Pediatrician, Kamineni Hospitals
In his address to the nation on December 25, 2021, Prime minister Narendra Modi announced that vaccination against COVID-19 for children in the age group of 15-18will start from January 3. This should give a boost to the confidence of parents who are not confident of sending their children to schools and colleges, despite the effects of Omicron, the latest variant of COVID-19, being reported to be minimal. In that sense, it's a great gift for our adolescents this new year.
There are several benefits to providing immunization against COVID-19to adolescents. One is that they will get to attend schools and colleges, despite the risk of infection from the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Second, these children/adolescents many times bring the infection with them into their homes, through which the elderly and those with comorbidities get infected. The vaccination will now help prevent the infection from spreading among family members.
In India, two vaccines are recommended for use among children. These are Covaxin and ZydusCov-D. Covaxin has a history of being administered to adults in the country. It is an inactivated vaccine produced by the conventional method; it resembles other vaccines administered on children for decades to combat diseases such as polio, DPT, Hepatitis A, typhoid, and flu. Trials of this vaccine in the pediatric age group have shown efficacy levels of 90-95% in severe disease, and 60-65% for the delta variant – the same as seen for adults. The side-effects profile -- fever body ache, pain swelling, and redness at the injection site -- is very mild and similar to other childhood vaccines. So far, no severe side effects have been observed. The vaccine will be administered to children/adolescents in two doses, similar to adults, in the form of intramuscular injections, 28 days apart.
The second vaccine is Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D. It is the world’s first plasmid DNA vaccine for Covid-19. ZyCoV-D was the first vaccine cleared by the Drugs Controller General of India to vaccinate people 12 years of age and older. DNA vaccines stimulate both the humoral and cellular arms of the adaptive immune system. The vaccine shows good stability at a temperature of 25 degrees Centigrade for at least three months. The thermostability of the vaccine helps in easy transportation and storage of the vaccine, without problems of temperature fluctuations. It is a three-dose vaccine that will be administered on Day Zero, Day 28, and Day 56. The vaccine is delivered by a "painless" intradermal application, which makes it a needle-free vaccine. The painless intradermal vaccine delivery is carried out by PharmaJet, a needle-free applicator, which also results in a significant reduction in any serious side effects. Studies conducted during the delta wave have shown 60-65% efficacy against mild COVID-19 and almost 100% against severe COVID-19 infection. Side-effects, including pain and redness at the injection site, fever, and diarrhea, are seen to be the same as in adults, and minimal.
Thus, the COVID-19 vaccines for children are safe and effective. They have undergone the most rigorous trials and are now authorized by the FDA. These are recommended by the CDC for children between the ages of 5 and 11 after being thoroughly tested for safety in thousands of children. The side effects are seen to have been mild, similar to that of other vaccines recommended for adults and children. Pain in the hand is the most common side-effect. Though these side effects can affect your child's ability to perform daily activities for a few days, the pain will vanish soon. Some people face no side effects at all. Severe allergic reactions are very rare.
So, with children too being vaccinated, hopefully, the end of the COVID-19 pandemic should now be in sight.