Boosting India’s Covid vaccine basket, pharma major Zydus Cadila has started supplying its corona jab ZyCoV-D to the government. The three-dose Plasmid DNA vaccine, which is injected via a needle-free system was approved for emergency use in the 12-and-above age group nearly six months ago. However, the company has admitted that teething issues had delayed the delivery of the vaccine. In fact, it was in November last year that the company had received an order for 10 million doses of the vaccine from the Centre.
That said, it is welcome that the Zydus vaccine is finally available. And as per latest reports, the government plans to use the new vaccine in poorly vaccinated areas such as in the north-eastern states. But the Zydus vaccine’s availability should also expand vaccination among children in the 12-and-above category. Currently, only children aged 15-17 years are being vaccinated with the Covaxin jab. And given that children have suffered immensely due to repeated school closures, setting back their learning outcomes, the vaccination for this group needs to be expedited.
Plus, the government should also get moving on mix-and-match vaccine studies. With two more vaccines in the pipeline – Covovax and Corbevax – such heterogenous vaccination can help expand the booster programme. The latter currently covers only frontline workers, health workers and those above 60 with comorbidities who have completed nine months since their second dose. Also, the vaccine being administered as the booster is the same one as the primary dose. But as new vaccines come online, mixing vaccines could speed up the booster roll out and ease the pressure on Covishield and Covaxin that have been the mainstay of India’s vaccination programme.
In fact, mix-and-match vaccination is already being done abroad and there is no reason why India should lag here. Actually, the number of people with comorbidities below 60 years of age is quite large and keeping them outside the booster net makes them vulnerable to new Covid variants. And with WHO now indicating the emergence of Omicron sub-variants that could be even more infectious, we shouldn’t be caught napping here.
Vaccination is a key tool to end the Covid pandemic. Thus, with newer vaccines coming up, both children’s vaccination and the booster programme for adults need to be scaled up as soon as possible.
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