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Risk of Vaccinating Children Against COVID Greater Than Benefits, Senior Indian Epidemiologist Says

© AP Photo / Manish SwarupDoctors and health workers entertain children at a COVID-19 care center functioning in an indoor stadium in New Delhi, India, Monday, July 20, 2020
Doctors and health workers entertain children at a COVID-19 care center functioning in an indoor stadium in New Delhi, India, Monday, July 20, 2020 - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.12.2021
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Fresh cases of COVID-19 are increasing sharply in India as Omicron, a new variant of the virus, is spreading rapidly. However, more than 1.41 billion doses have already been administered, with 577 million people fully vaccinated.
Hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced vaccination for children in the 15-18 years age group, a senior epidemiologist at India's premier hospital, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), termed the decision “unscientific”, saying it will not yield any additional benefit.
While talking to Sputnik, Dr Sanjay K. Rai, who is also the principal investigator of Covaxin trials for adults and children at the AIIMS and president of the Indian Public Health Association, said that before implementing the decision, data from countries that have already started vaccinating children should be analysed.
Earlier, on Sunday, Rai in a now deleted tweet wrote, tagging the Prime Minister’s Office: "I am a great fan of PM Modi for his selfless service to the nation and taking the right decisions at the right time. But I am completely disappointed with his unscientific decision on children's vaccination".
Elaborating his viewpoint, the senior epidemiologist says: “Before any intervention one should have a clear objective. The objective of the vaccination is to either prevent COVID infection or severity or death".

"But according to whatever knowledge we have about vaccines, they are unable to make a significant dent in the infection. In some countries, people are getting infected even after taking booster shots”.

"Also, 50,000 breakthrough infections are being reported per day in the UK. So, this proves that vaccination is not preventing COVID-19 infection but vaccines are effective in preventing severity and death", he adds.
Dr Rai says mortality due to COVID-19 in susceptible populations is around 1.5 percent, which means 15,000 deaths per million population.

"Through vaccination, we can prevent 80-90 percent of these deaths, which means that 13,000 to 14,000 deaths per million (population) can be prevented", he emphasises.

As per Rai, serious adverse events following immunisation are between 10 and 15 per million people.
"So, if you do the risk and benefit analysis in adults, it is a huge benefit", he explains.
In the case of children, Dr Rai explains that the severity of infection is very low and according to data available in the public domain, only two deaths per million have been reported.
"In this section [children], 15,000 [people] are not dying and keeping in mind the adverse effects also if you do the risk and benefit analysis, the risk is more than the benefits based on the available data", Rai insists.
"Both the objectives are not being fulfilled by initiating vaccination among children", he said.
Some countries, including the US, started vaccinating children four to five months ago. Data from these countries should be analysed before initiating COVID vaccination for children, he said.
In an address to the nation on Saturday night, Modi announced that vaccination against COVID-19 for "children in the 15 to 18 age group" will start from 3 January 2022.
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