India says vaccines for children as young as three to be ready within six months

The announcement comes at a time when schools across the country are reopening

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The Serum Institute of India has said it will provide a Covid 19 vaccine for children as young as three years of age within the next six months.

Chief executive Adar Poonawalla said on Wednesday that his company’s Covovax, the Indian version of the US-based based Novavax vaccine for children, is under clinical trial and will be made available next year.

The institute, based in the western city of Pune, was one of the first vaccine makers to receive the government’s emergency nod for the manufacture of Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield in January. It has so far produced more than 1.30 billion doses.

A health worker administers the Covishield coronavirus vaccine in Hyderabad, India, on December 15, 2021. AP

“We are going to be launching a vaccine in six months for children all the way down to the age of three,” Mr Poonawala said at a business summit.

“The vaccines will work and protect children … with Omicron, so far, children have not been affected very badly but there is no harm as these vaccines have been proven to be safe and efficacious,” he said.

The head of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer said Covovax trials had shown excellent results all the way down to the age group of three.

The announcement comes at a time when schools across the country are reopening and the threat of new infections looms due to a surge in Omicron cases.

India has confirmed 60 cases of the highly infectious variant, including in cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai, since early December.

Some health experts and epidemiologists have underscored the need for vaccines to cover children. However, the government has so far only given approval to Zydus Healthcare’s ZyCoV-D vaccine for children aged 12.

In November, the country's health minister said that the government was in no rush to administer Covid-19 vaccines to children and would make a decision based on expert opinion.

The Serum Institute of India received permission to conduct phase 2 and 3 clinical Covovax trials on children between the ages of two and 17. It is currently conducting trails on 920 children between three and 17 years.

Updated: December 15, 2021, 12:51 PM
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