National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) Chairman Dr Narendra Kumar Arora on Tuesday said in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Guardian that India’s vaccine-related decisions are based on scientific evidence.
“We use scientific evidence and make the best use of vaccines which we are using at the moment. We are not just trying to have the best efficacy, but also trying to see that the country is protected from various variants and waves of corona going forward. We know corona will stay for some time and we want to ensure that the people are adequately protected. Here, I must also say that the vaccine shortage is only for the next 5-6 weeks,” Dr Arora said.
According to recommendations by NTAGI, there are two studies, one is from the UK and the other is from the US. Both the studies suggest that after SARS-CoV-2 infection, people develop antibodies and the chances of reinfection get reduced by 84-91 per cent in the ensuing 6-7 months. So, there is this evidence that if somebody has a proven infection, there is reasonable protection from reinfection.
He said India’s decision is based upon the studies of Indian data of 1.400 individuals that showed that after 102 days, the risk of reinfection is only 4.5 per cent. “We know from July onwards, the manufacturing of Covaxin and Covishield will increase 20-25 crore doses per month. In addition, we will have other vaccines also like Zydus Cadila, Sputnik V, Johnson & Johnson in 2-3 weeks,” he said.
NTAGI recommended that the natural Covid infection need to be used as a further boost to the effectiveness of the Covid vaccines. It said that persons having laboratory tests proven SARS-CoV-2 illness should defer the Covid-19 vaccination for 12 weeks after recovery.
There is also no reason to believe that children will be disproportionately affected by coronavirus in the coming weeks and months or in the next wave, Dr Arora said, but stressed on the need for additional resource inputs to improve the paediatric Covid services. Dr Arora said Indian data does not show specific predilection of the currently circulating virus strains either for the youth or paediatric age group. However, since the absolute numbers have increased, patients from both age groups are being noticed more, he said.
Dr Arora said it is not possible to predict any third wave at this time. “But based on the experience that is available from our own country and that from other parts of the world, there is no reason to believe that children will be disproportionately affected in the coming weeks and months or in the next wave,” Dr Arora said.
It is absolutely necessary to appreciate that newborn, children and pregnant women require specific care facilities. “Children below 10 years will need either mother or father or a care provider with them. Similarly, infected pregnant women can deliver prematurely. I am given to understand that treatment protocols are already prepared and are under review by different paediatric groups and associations,” Dr Arora said. The country is already managing children and most Covid care centres have provision but there is need for additional resource inputs to improve the paediatric Covid services and align with the rest of the Covid-19 management framework, he added.
The phase 2 and 3 clinical trials of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin in the age group of 2 to 18 years will start soon. Covaxin, which has been indigenously developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), is being used on adults in India›s ongoing Covid-19 vaccination drive. Earlier this month, Bharat Biotech was granted permission to conduct the phase 2/3 clinical trial of Covaxin in the age group of 2 to 18 years, Dr Arora said.