He said that the panel has informed the Central government regarding its decision to NOT vaccinate kids on an urgent basis. In an interview, Dr Muliyil stated, “India has not witnessed a single death among children below 12 years of age due to Covid-19. We have registered deaths among children due to cancer, leukaemia and other diseases where children tested positive, but those deaths cannot be attributed to Covid-19.”
Many doctors and experts have taken to social platforms demanding against the vaccination of young children. Some claim that children have a robust immune response against the novel coronavirus, while others believe that the majority of the Indian population have naturally acquired immunity from the second COVID wave, making them variant-resistant to some extent. Even amid Omicron scare, many claim that the variant is mild and that kids are therefore safe.
So far, there have been no conclusive reports suggesting for or against vaccination among kids. However, we tried looking for answers and spoke to a paediatrician to get a better understanding of why doctors are advising against COVID vaccines for kids.
“Virus impact on kids has been mild”
According to Dr Santosh Kumar, Consultant Neonatologist & Paediatrician, Motherhood Hospitals, Bangalore, COVID-19 vaccines do not completely stop or prevent the disease from infecting a person. Given that the virus is mutating, vaccines may not protect against new variants.
Having said that, he says, “strain. Even if the child is vaccinated against a certain strain, probably 6 to 12 months down the line, they could be exposed to a new strain. So, vaccination is not the ultimate goal. Rather we should be aiming for herd immunity.”
Furthermore, the paediatric expert suggests that the effect of the virus on the paediatric population has been very mild and negligible. “We have been seeing new strains since 2020 now, with every new strain and the adult population getting exposed, the children have started to develop immunity against all variants be it alpha, beta or delta and now Omicron,” he adds.
Amid Omicron alert, should vaccination in kids be hurried?
Given that children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that unless they are part of a group at “higher risk of severe COVID-19”, it is “less urgent” to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers.”
Keeping in view the new coronavirus variant Omicron, Dr. Kumar says that it has so far been ‘mild’. “As per the European data, the infection from Omicron is mild, the number of serious cases and deaths in children have been very low. This shows that with exposure children are getting immune to it.”
“We can probably wait for 6 months to 1 year until the population is exposed and develops immunity.”
Therefore, as far as vaccination for kids is concerned, he adds by saying that we can wait and that “it is not immediately needed.”
Herd immunity may be enough
When asked if children should get vaccinated when vaccines eligible for them come out, Dr. Kumar suggests referring to the larger COVID vaccine trial results and then opt for it.
For now, he believes that the herd immunity from the second COVID wave is protecting the population and children are not in any immediate danger.
What parents can do to protect kids
While a third COVID booster is said to ramp up immunity in people, experts have expressed doubts regarding the two dose vaccine efficacy against the Omicron variant.
In light of such findings, doctors and medical professionals have urged people to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour. Wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and following proper hand hygiene is the best way to prevent an infection.