Representative image of a vaccine. Photo: RF._.studio/Pexels
- Gagandeep Kang and Rajeev Jayadevan said it’s inadvisable to vaccinate young people without more data about the vaccines’ impact on their immune response.
- Kang expressed concerns about the lack of safety data for the vaccines cleared for use by children in India – Covaxin and ZyCoV-D, especially the latter.
- Both experts also said children with comorbidities must be vaccinated, however. Jayadevan also said children living with elderly relatives should be protected as well.
Gagandeep Kang, a member of the government’s COVID-19 working group and a well-known virologist, has said that at this point of time, India shouldn’t consider giving COVID-19 vaccines to healthy children younger than 15 years.
This view was also echoed by Rajeev Jayadevan, vice-chairman of the Indian Medical Association’s research cell.
Kang told The Wire in a 22-minute interview that the COVID-19 picture facing India today has significantly different from the one in April-May, and that “we need as much complete information as possible before we decide” to vaccinate healthy children under 15.
“If we had a raging pandemic, it would be a completely different situation.”
Her view was also echoed by Jayadevan, who said it would be inadvisable to vaccinate young and healthy people without more data about the vaccines’ impact on the immune response of children.
Kang expressed concerns about the lack of safety data for both vaccines cleared for use by young adults or children in India – Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D, especially the latter. She added that independent experts also need more age-differential risk data for Covaxin.
She also said there are concerns about administering the present crop of COVID-19 vaccines to young children because, “first, vaccines might influence the immune response of young children against infections for which there are multiple variants”.
Therefore, she continued, “For children who have a long life ahead of them, the first vaccine may not be the best. We may find that there may be a second version … that does better. We may find that combinations of different platforms may perform better in children.”
She stressed several times that there is “not sufficient information to justify vaccinating healthy children at this time”. She said we cannot go by decisions taken in the UK or elsewhere and gave several reasons why.
She summed up her stand thus: “I am comfortable with young children not being vaccinated.”
However, both Kang and Jayadevan said children with comorbidities must be vaccinated. Jayadevan went one step further and said children who live with people who are immunocompromised and/or with elderly relatives should also be vaccinated. Kang didn’t fully agree with the latter part, however.