Looking at the importance of getting vaccinated, several parents are eagerly waiting for vaccines for children. However, there are some medical experts and epidemiologists who are not in favour of vaccinating children.
The Drug Controller General of India (DGCI), has approved Zydus Cadila’s Covid-19 vaccine (ZyCoV-D) for emergency use in children aged 12 years and above. In addition to it, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for 2 to 18 years is awaiting the approval from the drug regulator.
In India, the vaccination process for children has not yet started, unlike countries like USA and Canada who have started vaccination programs for children of age 12 years and above.
However, some of the noted epidemiologists and medical experts raised a deep concern regarding vaccination of children owing to its long-term risks. They feel COVID-19 is far lesser threat to children, reported the Outlook.
Experts have come up with following 5 reasons why children don’t need COVID vaccination, based on existing data:
Kids are safe from Covid-19
“The British weekly scientific journal Nature has published a paper a few days ago. In the UK, death in children due to Covid-19 is 2 per million. Which is extremely low when you compare with adults where death is 1.5 per cent, i.e. 15,000 per million,” Dr Sanjay K Rai, Professor, Centre for Community Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, said.
Dr Amitav Banerjee, Clinical epidemiologist, in Dr D Y Patil Medical College, Pune, says:
“They have very well-developed thymus glands which produce very good T-Cell and memory cell immunity. They also lack ACE-2 receptors on which the spike protein of the virus latches in the lungs.”
He added, “Also, they have got a very high melatonin level that is very protective against the virus. So physiologically they are very well-protected by the nature.”
Most kids in India already exposed
The seroprevalence survey conducted in various parts of the country shows that 70 – 90% of children have already been exposed to the virus and they have developed natural antibodies.
“We haven’t seen severe Covid-19 among kids in India. Though the government hasn’t released data yet based on our experience of hospitalisation and death of patients in the first and second waves, we can say that kids are the least affected of Covid-19.
In fact, the numbers are almost negligible. Even if a few deaths have been reported, these are those children who had the comorbid conditions,” Dr Rai said.
High and unknown risk of adverse effect of Covid-19 vaccine
Experts like Dr Rai and Dr Jayaprakash Muliyil (Chairman, Scientific Advisory Committee of the National Institute of Epidemiology), are of the view that though the risk of Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI) is very low but it is not zero.
“In such scenarios, we should look at a comparative picture of risk from Covid-19 as well as AEFI. If the latter outweighs the former, then vaccination is a costly and risky exercise with no benefits,” Dr Rai said.
Dr Muliyil also feels that the death among kids, especially below 12, is almost zero and “there is no reason to vaccinate kids as they are not vulnerable to Covid-19,” he said.
Dr Banerjee seconds the view that the vaccine’s side effect is not negligible. “There has been adverse effect from the vaccine particularly Myocarditis after the launch of vaccinations for children in some countries,” he said.
“Data from various countries such as the USA, Israel, and Canada show that this risk of Myocarditis to kids from the mRNA vaccine is about 1 in 6000. Considering this, many European countries recently stopped the use of the Moderna vaccine for those under 30,” Bhaskaran Raman, a faculty in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at IIT Bombay, said.
Raman has been carrying out a data study of various countries on the impact of vaccination. He said, “It is important to note here that the above risks were not signalled in the initial vaccine trials: the trial size itself was too small to uncover rare risks (32,449 for AstraZeneca/Covishield). That these risks have been found after mass vaccination is deeply concerning.”
“The trial sizes for kids’ vaccines (525: Covaxin, 1000: ZyCov-D), are laughably small, except that this is no laughing matter. Such low trial sizes cannot capture anything but the most obvious risks. Would we discover other risks of Covaxin or ZyCov-D after vaccinating millions of children? This is a very worrying unknown indeed.”
Long-term risks remain unknown
Many medical experts have expressed their serious concern as the long term adverse effects of the vaccines are still unknown.
“We do not have long term safety data for the simple reason that it has not been a long time since the vaccines became available. In a typical vaccine trial, most countries have several phases of trials extending over many years, during which the health outcomes of the trial participants (including control) are tracked, with respect to the main disease as well as any possible vaccine side-effects.
This has not yet happened for the Covid-19 vaccines,” a senior government expert of infectious disease said, requesting anonymity.
Other diseases that threaten kids
Raman in his data research has found that in the USA, there are various other factors that cause more mortality in kids as compared to Covid such as flu/pneumonia, heart disease, drowning, homicide, traffic accidents, suicide and cancer.
“In the context of India, other comparisons are even starker: nearly 9 lakh children die of hunger-related causes every year. Almost 2000 infants die every single day in India, of preventable malnutrition-related causes: infant mortality rate of nearly 3% is about 1000-2000 times more than the risk of Covid death for kids!” Raman said.