Approval for DNA vaccine is good news

Approval for DNA vaccine is good news

ZyCov-D should help vaccinate children, reopen schools

Representative image. Credit: PTI photo

The grant of emergency use authorisation (EUA) by the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) to another indigenously developed vaccine, ZyCov-D, is an important event in the efforts towards developing and using indigenous Covid-19 vaccines. It is a DNA-based vaccine, developed by Zydus Cadila in collaboration with the Department of Biotechnology, and is considered to be the world’s first needle-free vaccine. It is also the first vaccine for children in the 12-18 age group and the sixth for adults in India. It has shown a primary efficacy of 66.6% in its phase-III clinical trials, and it is expected that a two-dose regimen can be developed in the near future. Children of all ages have been left out of the vaccination programme till now because there was no vaccine that has been developed specifically for them. Now that one is available, a children's vaccination programme should be planned and implemented.

If the vaccine arrives in September, as is expected, it can give a fillip to the country’s vaccination plans. It is stored at 2-8 degrees Celsius but is said to have stability at 25 degrees Celsius for at least three months. It is to be given at intervals of 28 and 56 days, using a painless needle-free applicator. This would also help because some youngsters in the 12-18 age group have the fear of the needle. Schools have been shut ever since the pandemic started and their reopening should get the highest priority. But it has been a more difficult proposition than reopening the economy, for various reasons. If children can be brought under vaccination coverage, it may be possible to reopen schools with greater confidence. But there is the need for special care, as reports suggest that a possible next wave of the epidemic may affect more children than previously.

The vaccination programme has picked up but it is still far off the targets. The task of vaccinating 8-10 million people every day is challenging. Unless this is done, the aim of fully vaccinating the country by December will be impossible to achieve. There are encouraging reports from rural areas, as over 60% of all vaccinations in the past few weeks have taken place in such areas. The pace in the rural areas should be sustained and increased. There is also the need for more educational campaigns to remove vaccine hesitancy. There are complaints of non-availability of vaccines and supply glitches. Studies should also continue on how virus mutations will affect the immunity gained from vaccinations. An efficient vaccination programme for children will add to the effectiveness of the overall drive.

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