Need to tread with caution: Mansukh Mandaviya on giving Covid vaccine to children
He said children were not being inoculated against COVID-19 on a large scale anywhere in the world though it has been initiated in some countries in a limited manner.
NEW DELHI: Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Thursday said the government does not want to make haste about administering COVID-19 vaccine to children and any decision in this regard will be taken based on expert opinion.
On when vaccination for children could start as Zydus Cadila's Covid vaccine has been granted emergency use authorisation for those 12-year-old and above, he said children were not being inoculated against COVID-19 on a large scale anywhere in the world though it has been initiated in some countries in a limited manner.
"We do not want to rush this thing. Since this is a matter related to children, the expert group is carrying out further studies," he said at the 'Times Now Summit 2021'.
All the vaccines which have currently received emergency use authorisation will be granted full authorisation only after a detailed study and based on the data of four to five years, he said.
"It is through data and experience we have learnt that even after vaccination Covid can happen.
Then again, data emerged stating that after vaccination one does not get severe Covid.
The first dose gives 96 per cent protection and both doses give 98.5 per cent protection.
"About vaccinating the children, we will make a decision based on expert opinion. We have decided to think and evaluate before going ahead with vaccinating children as they are the future of our country and we need to tread with caution in this matter," the minister said.
On the probability of administering a booster dose, he said adequate stocks are available and the aim is to complete the vaccination of the target population with two doses.
After that, a decision on booster dose would be taken based on expert recommendation, Mandaviya said.
"The government cannot take a direct decision in such a matter. When the Indian Council of Medical Research and expert team will say that a booster dose should be given, we will consider it then," he said, adding Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always depended on expert opinion, be it vaccine research, manufacturing or approval.
Despite a large population and diverse challenges, nearly 80 per cent of India's adult population have taken at least the first dose.
The country's vaccination performance has been remarkable, Mandaviya said.
About Covaxin's approval by WHO, the minister said that he had discussed the matter with WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on more than a couple of occasions to understand the requirements a vaccine needed to fulfil to get the clearance.
"It is a matter of great pride that a vaccine developed and manufactured in India has been given EUA status."
Asked if the delay in getting the EUA was because Covaxin is an Indian vaccine and if there was there any discrimination against India, the Mandaviya replied, "I will not get into this matter."
He informed that 97 countries have recognised Covishield and Covaxin.
In the coming days, vaccines manufactured in India will be made available around the globe at affordable rates, Mandaviya said and stressed India will play a major role in global covid vaccination efforts.
"We will get 31 crore doses in November with more due in December. Another five to six companies are set to come to India to manufacture vaccines here. We will help meet the world's requirement for Covid vaccines by providing USD 18 to 20 vaccines at USD 3 to 4. This is our commitment," he said.
The minister said that 16 crore vaccine doses are lying with the states and Union Territories.
Referring to the 'Har Ghar Dastak' vaccination at doorstep campaign, he said, "By December 31 we want to complete our target of vaccinating people aged 18 and above. It now depends on people's support."
Asked about the possibility of a third wave, Mandaviya said, "Covid is not over. Cases are rising globally. In Russia, China, Hong Kong cases are rising again despite more than 80 per cent vaccination. Vaccination and Covid-appropriate behaviour have to go hand in hand."
On preparations for a probable third wave, he said Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission has been launched and Rs 65,000 crore will be spent in the next five years to ramp up the health infrastructure across the country.
The aim is to form such a level of preparedness that India is ready to fight a pandemic-like exigency if anything like it comes up in the next 50 years, the Union health minister said.
"The second wave pointed out the shortages in health infrastructure. But, we don't believe in a blame game. PM Modi has linked health with development and the government under his leadership always made efforts to expand and strengthen health facilities," he said.
Discussing the Health Infrastructure Mission, Mandaviya said modern laboratories will be set up at the district level which will conduct 115 types of medical tests for the poor citizens free of cost.
Critical care units will be set up at the district level equipped with a 100-bed facility that has oxygen and ventilators.
Besides, a research centre at the regional level will be set up so that epidemics are recognised on time before they assume pandemic proportions, he said.
Meanwhile, children below five years are exempted from both pre- and post-arrival testing for COVID-19 in India, according to the revised guidelines for international arrivals released on Thursday.
However, if found symptomatic for coronavirus infections on arrival or during home quarantine period, they shall undergo testing and be treated according to laid down protocol, the guidelines said.
Highlighting that the global trajectory of COVID-19 pandemic continues to decline with certain regional variations, the document stated the need to monitor the continuously changing nature of virus and evolution of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern must still remain in focus.
The existing guidelines (issued on February 17 with subsequent addendums) for international arrivals in India have been formulated taking a risk-based approach.
In view increasing vaccination coverage across the globe and the changing nature of the pandemic, the existing guidelines for international arrivals in India have been reviewed, the health ministry said.
"Children under 5 years of age are exempted from both pre- and post-arrival testing. However, if found symptomatic for COVID-19 on arrival or during home quarantine period, they shall undergo testing and treated as per laid down protocol," it said.
This standard operating procedure shall be valid from November 12 (00.00 Hrs IST) till further orders, the ministry stated.
Also, 15 days must have elapsed since completion of COVID-19 vaccination schedule.
According to the existing guidelines, if travellers are fully vaccinated and coming from a country with which India has reciprocal arrangements for mutual acceptance of WHO approved COVID-19 vaccines, they shall be allowed to leave the airport and need not undergo home quarantine.
They shall self monitor their health for 14 days' post arrival.
If partially or not vaccinated, the travellers need to undertake measures which includes submission of sample for post-arrival COVID-19 test at the point of arrival after which they will be allowed to leave the airport, home quarantine for seven days, re-test on the eighth day of arrival in India and if negative, further selfmonitor of their health for next seven days.
15 days must have elapsed since completion of COVID-19 vaccination schedule," the guidelines said.
Travellers under home quarantine or self-health monitoring, if develop signs and symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19 on re-testing, they will immediately self isolate and report to their nearest health facility or call national helpline number (1075)/ state helpline number.
On arrival deboarding should be done ensuring physical distancing and thermal screening would be carried out in respect of all the passengers by the health officials present at the airport.
The self-declaration form filled online shall be shown to the airport health staff.
The passengers found to be symptomatic during screening shall be immediately isolated and taken to medical facility according to health protocol.
If tested positive, their contacts shall be identified and managed according to laid down protocol.
Contacts of the suspect case are the co-passengers seated in the same row, three rows in front and three rows behind along with identified cabin crew.
Also, all the community contacts of those travellers who have tested positive (during home quarantine period) would be subjected to quarantine for 14 days and tested as per ICMR protocol , the guidelines stated.