The Indian Practitioner d Vol.74 No.12 December 2021
COVID Vaccination for Children in India: A Step Towards
Better Health, Wellbeing and Development
As on December 2021, COVID vaccination for children is yet to commence in India, a country that has been a global leader
in vaccinating the adult population. Two indigenous vaccines have already been approved for children 12 years and above
by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), with vaccination set to commence for children aged 15 years and above in
January 2022. Children are being considered as low risk and low priority for vaccination, as in them, COVID is commonly
mild, and complications, rare. However, the impact of the evolving SARS-CoV-2 mutants on children cannot be fully predict-
ed, and some children have comorbidities and immune deciencies putting them at higher risk. Moreover, children not being
vaccinated has contributed signicantly to parental anxiety and reluctance in sending them to school, and also the schools
continuing hybrid teaching and not being able to start physical and interactive activities that can improve children’s holistic
health, wellbeing and development. As globally across several countries, children are now being vaccinated, this is being
expected from India too. Vaccination of children may not only enhance protection against severe COVID and unpredictable
variants, but can help the children return to a more wholesome school life and childhood.
Keywords: vaccination, COVID, children, school, development
Consultant Family Medicine and Holistic Health, Dr Varsha’s Health
Solutions, Mumbai. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are now at the brink of entering the third
year of the COVID pandemic. India be-
gan vaccination against COVID in January
2021for adults, starting with healthcare and frontline
workers, elderly, and those with comorbidities, and
later extended it in May 2021 to all adults (18 years or
more). However, the 2nd pandemic wave struck in
March-April 2021, and took a signicant mortality toll
that also included many young unvaccinated healthy
With regards to the adult population, India has
administered more than 1.3 billion vaccine doses. 
However, almost one year after commencement of
COVID vaccination in India, as on December 2021, the
vaccination of children has not begun.
Globally the Pzer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is
approved by USFDA for children 5 years and older.
Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines are now approved by
China and some other countries for children 3 years
and older, while Moderna’s vaccine has been approved
for 12 years and above by EMA. Vaccination for chil-
dren aged 12 years or more, and in some countries for
those aged 5 years (even 3 years) and more, with the ap-
propriate approved vaccines, has started in full swing
globally across almost 100 countries. These include the
USA, most European countries, UK, Australia, Middle
eastern countries, some African and South American
countries, and several countries in Asia.
In India, in August 2021, the Drug Controller
General of India (DCGI) approved the Zydus Cadila
COVID-vaccine – ZyCoV-D for 12 years and above.
However, vaccination has not begun with this vaccine
as on December 2021.
The Indian Practitioner d Vol.74 No.12 December 2021
In October 2021, the Subject Expert Commiee
(SEC) had recommended the approval of Bharat
Biotech’s Covaxin for children between 2 and 18 years.
 The DCGI has given the nal approval for this vac-
cine in December 2021, with vaccination for those 15
years and above set to commence in January 2022.
Both ZyCoV-D and Covaxin were given approval
by the subject expert commiees after the review of the
ecacy and safety data from pediatric phase II and III
trial interim results. Covaxin is a killed whole virus
vaccine, and children have already undergone immu-
nization with other vaccines with this technology be-
As of now the reason available in public domain
and as recommended by the National Technical
Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), for not
commencing pediatric vaccination in India is that chil-
dren constitute a low-risk population for COVID, and
that symptoms seem to be mild in them, therefore they
are not a priority group for urgent vaccination as of
now. The priority is to complete double dose for all
adults with contemplation of booster doses for high-
risk adult groups. There are also challenges in ramp-
ing up production, administrative and technical issues,
and want of more ecacy and safety data in children,
as being additional reasons for delaying commence-
ment of pediatric vaccination in India.
An administrative decision considered practical and
wise by most, is to open schools in India without wait-
ing for children to be vaccinated. Children have suf-
fered an immense impact on their physical and mental
health, holistic wellbeing and education, social interac-
tion, and growth and development, by being conned
to online school, or in some sections a lack of access to
any education. It is a signicant uphill task to vaccinate
more than quarter billion eligible children of India and
that requires resources, production capacity, and plan-
ning that will take time, which is not worthy of losing
by keeping schools closed any further.
Reasons for Vaccinating Children
The advantages of COVID vaccination for children
in India are summarized below:
• Children constitute a low-risk group for COVID
complications, hospitalization and mortality, and
mostly display mild symptoms. However, that does
not mean that there is no risk. Some children have
suered severe symptoms, and even hospitaliza-
tion. Multi-system inammatory syndrome in chil-
dren (MIS-C), is a recognized, serious and often de-
layed complication of COVID. Children who had
mild COVID can also suer impacts of long COVID.
• There are many children with immunocompro-
mised conditions and comorbidities who can have
more severe COVID and therefore deserve high pri-
ority and urgency for vaccination. These include
children with heart or respiratory conditions, or-
gan transplant, kidney ailments like nephrotic syn-
drome, corticosteroid therapy or cancer chemother-
apy, childhood obesity, diabetes etc.
• Children can transmit infection to high-risk or el-
derly adults in the household who were vaccinat-
ed almost 8-10 months ago. Therefore vaccinating
children is important for overall family health and
reducing community transmission.
• Even though the administration has ordered open-
ing of schools, many parents are reluctant to send
their children to school as they are not yet vaccinat-
ed and are hoping that vaccination for children will
be starting soon. This apprehension has only in-
creased due to the tremendous talk in the media of
cases of the recent Omicron variant increasing in
• Schools are also being extremely cautious due to the
children not being vaccinated yet. Signed parental
consent is mandatory, and since some parents are
apprehensive to send their children, aendance in
schools is unsteady. Also, many schools are calling
children in groups, and not all from a class on the
same day so that distancing can be maintained in
the classroom. For both these reasons, schools are
forced to conduct hybrid (online-oine) classes
that are not as eective as pure online classes for
those children aending from home. This is im-
pacting learning and academics.
• For the children coming to school, they are not al-
lowed to freely move around and interact with oth-
er children, and have to keep distancing at all times.
Co-curricular, sports/games and interactive social
and educational activities, have not begun, as chil-
dren are not vaccinated. Many schools have not re-
sumed their transport as well as meal service for
fear of spread of infection. This is creating prac-
tical diculties for parents in sending their chil-
dren to school. So many children continue with or
go back to online school from home for these rea-
sons. It is already established that lack of adequate
social interaction, physical activity (sports/games)
and personality development co-curricular activi-
ties, and living in a virtual gadget dominated world
The Indian Practitioner d Vol.74 No.12 December 2021
throughout the day has impacted children’s well-
being, health and development signicantly.
• Most schools that have opened have done so initial-
ly for the senior classes. Therefore, the children in
junior and pre-primary classes are largely continu-
ing with online mode. Regression of social, motor
and language skills are a big concern in such chil-
dren. Many children in rural areas without devel-
oped internet facilities, and available smart phones/
laptops are being left out of education all together.
The administration has now allowed schools to re-
open even for junior classes, however it is very chal-
lenging for schools to impose strict COVID proto-
cols on the younger children. So parental reluctance
for sending younger children to school is even high-
er. Schools in low socioeconomic or rural sections
are not equipped with stringent sanitation and so-
cial distancing measures for children, and can also
not conduct hybrid classes.
• Children are subjected repeatedly to RT-PCR tests
as they are not vaccinated. While in most Indian
states double vaccinated people do not need RTPCR
for entry, but if travelling as a family, children over
5 years have to undertake the RT-PCR, sometimes
2-3 times in a short interval. Some schools after re-
opening are also conducting/asking for frequent
RT-PCR tests, that is causing severe inconvenience
to the children and parents. International travel as a
family is also now posing challenges as most coun-
tries are vaccinating children, and completion of
COVID vaccination is a requirement for travel to
many of the countries.
• In the rst wave of the pandemic in 2020, we saw
the elderly and people with comorbidities suer
more and the scientic impression was that nor-
mal healthy younger adults rarely get severe dis-
ease. However, the mutated SARS-CoV-2 variants
and the subsequent 2nd wave in 2021, saw several
of the unvaccinated young healthy adults get hos-
pitalized and even lose their life. Even though the
current variant Omicron seems to be causing mild
disease without mortality or hospitalization, it is a
variant of concern (VOC) and it is too early to pre-
dict its course, and very lile data to understand all
its features is available. There is also no scientif-
ic or medical ‘guarantee’ that a 3rd or subsequent
wave, or any future COVID variant will not impact
children signicantly. Therefore, preventive steps
are always beer and it is imperative to vaccinate
• Vaccination has globally proven to be the most ef-
fective way of preventing severe COVID, hospital-
ization and death. Since in most countries, children
are now being vaccinated, and their health, educa-
tion and development is being given priority, this
would be the way ahead for India too, and is be-
ing expected and awaited by apprehensive parents
and schools. Parents in India need to be given clar-
ity and reassurance on when vaccination will begin
for their children, and meanwhile not refrain from
sending children to school. The schools also need
clarity and uniformity, on whether they can resume
normal physical classroom teaching mode with all
students or how long to continue hybrid mode, and
also if they can start sports, co-curricular, and inter-
active social-education activities, and other essen-
tial services without waiting for children to be vac-
India has shown tremendous leadership in vaccina-
tion and has been a global example in vaccinating its
adult population. All the more that we set such an ex-
ample for our children as well. Commencing vaccina-
tion for children from 2022, starting with those 15 years
and above, is the rst and needed step in this direction.
There is data and approval for 2 indigenous COVID
vaccines for children.
COVID vaccination for children confers many im-
portant benets. It can reduce the risk of serious or
severe COVID and confer some protection from un-
predictable current and future COVID virus variants.
Secondly, it allays parental anxiety and will encourage
more children to aend physical school. Thirdly, it can
also impart the required conviction and condence to
the schools and administration to open sports, games
and play, as well as interactive, social and co-curricular
activities, along with school transport and meal facili-
ty for children. All this will contribute to the children’s
physical, mental, social and emotional health and de-
velopment, and bring back their normal healthy child-
hood. Vaccination can reduce the need for extra RT-
PCRs and travel/quarantine restrictions for children.
Children being immunized can also cut community
transmission of COVID.
As of now children have not been vaccinated as
they have been considered low risk. But at the same
time because of COVID risk, children are being de-
nied normal and wholesome school life with physical
and peer interactive activities that are so important for
their health, well-being and development. Thus, chil-
The Indian Practitioner d Vol.74 No.12 December 2021
dren are being penalized from both sides, which is not
only unfair to the children but also to the future of our
country.Vaccination of children should now be made
one of the national priorities, with gearing up of re-
sources and ramping up production for successful pe-
diatric vaccination drives in 2022.
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