COVID-19 vaccinations for young children now expected to start later this month. The government has announced that, due to the rise in the COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country, all unvaccinated children aged six months to 16 years would receive the H1N1 vaccine between May 2 and May 15, 2020 under the Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI). Those who are not yet six months old also, on a staggered basis, would receive the influenza vaccine at the same time as their six-month-old counterparts. In addition, pregnant women and those who may have had previous exposure to influenza vaccine are urged to take the vaccine during their antenatal check-up.
The government has also confirmed that the vaccine is to be provided within 10 days of a woman giving birth. The World Health Organization (WHO) also noted that H1N1, as well as seasonal influenza, tend to flare up during the pregnancy. It also noted that pregnant women were more likely to transmit the virus to their children.
“The government has taken a precautionary measure to protect the children of India living in a vulnerable environment, where the threat of pandemic influenza is real, in the wake of COVID-19,” said Dr. Prasoon Rekhi, Joint Director of Health Services at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in a statement.
“It is a very difficult situation to be in while trying to protect our children from vaccine-preventable diseases. The government has ensured that there is adequate time to get them vaccinated,” he added.
The vaccine is also expected to be given to some 10 percent of children who have been in school for at least five years.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that a special COVID-19 vaccine research institute of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health (DPC) at PGIMER, Chandigarh, was set up to conduct clinical studies for the vaccine. It also said that it has taken up the offer of WHO to take