Covaxin junior: Bharat Biotech’s kids’ vaccine is good news. But why is its vaccine for adults yet to get WHO clearance?

What is the news?

Bharat Biotech is on the threshold of becoming the second Indian vaccine maker to receive an emergency use approval in the domestic market for a children’s Covid vaccine. 

The company’s vaccine for children has received a conditional approval from an expert committee of the drug regulator.

The next steps will have to be a final approval and a clearance from the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation to be included in the national programme.

Covaxin, if it gets emergency use clearance, will span the age group 2-18.

What is the significance of this development? 

These developments are timely. India’s Covid vaccination programme has now ensured about 29.2% of the adult population is fully vaccinated. The vaccination rollout prioritised demographics at greater risk. Now, there needs to be a parallel push to vaccinate children.

WHO data showed that between December 30, 2019 and September 6, 2021, children up to the age of 15 made up 8% of global cases.

Therefore, the Covid containment strategy needs to bring this demographic under a protective umbrella.  

What is the way forward?

Bharat Biotech should now work expeditiously to get emergency approval for Covaxin from WHO. WHO approval is a prerequisite for other benefits. It opens the door to vaccine passports and also export opportunities. Bharat Biotech needs to get past this hurdle at the earliest by satisfying WHO’s data requirements. Till it happens, it inconveniences millions of Indians who have been vaccinated with Covaxin and may now need to travel for work or to study.

Like Covishield, Covaxin manufacturing should also be scaled up faster, it will aid complete normalisation of social interaction in a few months.

The subsequent development and regulatory approvals need a much higher standard of recording data. Drugs and vaccines are an area where India is globally competitive. The stakeholders need to build on this base. 

Source: This post is based on the article “Covaxin junior: Bharat Biotech’s kids’ vaccine is good news. But why is its vaccine for adults yet to get WHO clearance?” published in “Times of India” on 13th October 2021. 

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