As of 3 January 2022, India has launched its COVID-19 vaccination drive for children between 15 to 18 years of age. Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is the approved vaccine that is being administered.
Data from the health ministry’s CoWIN portal showed that 3.85 million doses of vaccines had been administered to those aged between 15 and 17 years on 3 January 2022.
While on one hand social media was abuzz with pictures of children at vaccination centres and relieved parents, concerns were also raised with regard to the expiry date of the vaccine. In November 2021, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) approved the extension of the shelf life of Covaxin, from 9 to 12 months.
Navanita Varadpande, a Twitter user voiced her concerns in a tweet that read, “So my son went to get his first vaccine, the drive for kids begin today and realized that the vaccine had already expired in November. Then a letter was shown wherein it seems the shelf life has been extended!! How, why, on what basis? To clear stock you experiment on kids? (sic)”
So my son went to get his first vaccine, the drive for kids begin today and realized that the vaccine had already expired in November. Then a letter was shown wherein it seems the shelf life has been extended!!How, why, on what basis?
To clear stock you experiment on kids? pic.twitter.com/259ZHDBMSN
— Navanita Varadpande (@VpNavanita) January 3, 2022
This has led to a cause of concern amongst parents. The Better India caught up with Dr Vikas Maurya, Director and Head of Department, Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh to understand this better.
Should parents be worried about the expiry date of the vaccine?
Dr Vikas Maurya: “Given that the CDSCO has already approved the extension of the vaccine’s shelf life there is no cause for concern in the matter. These are extraordinary times, given that we are living through a pandemic and with every new research and data that is coming in, the government is making amends to the existing policies,” says Dr Maurya.
He also adds that getting a vaccine shot in these times has become imperative and one must, as soon as possible, get themselves and their children vaccinated. “It is also very difficult for the medical fraternity, and especially doctors, to comment on this since we have not read the report or seen any specific data on the extension of the vaccine validity,” he says.
Should parents be mindful of any particular side effects in children who are getting the Covaxin vaccine?
“The trials conducted by Covaxin suggest that it is safe to be administered to children and it is on that basis that this drive is being conducted. There are no new side effects that one should be mindful of,” says Dr Maurya. Like in adults, children may also be susceptible to developing a mild low-grade fever, pain at the site of vaccination and tiredness.
“However, so far, no other untoward side effect has been reported, either in adults or children and therefore we must ensure maximum children within the age bracket of 15 to 18 are vaccinated,” he says.
Should we check the expiry date before the vaccine is administered?
While Dr Maurya says that he understands the apprehensions that some parents might have with respect to the Covaxin vaccines shelf life extension, he adds, “I would not worry about it and also would not try and check the expiry date mentioned on the vials. Did we do the same when the vaccine was being administered to us? At that time, we did not even know much about the vaccine. Today, there is enough data and research on the efficacy of the vaccine.”
Dr Maurya urges parents to not get worried about these issues and do as the government has prescribed. “This is not the time to become investigators,” he says.
What do terms like ‘shelf life’ and ‘stability’ of a vaccine mean?
Like all medicinal products, vaccines also come with a date of expiry or shelf life. This is usually determined by the manufacturer and is approved by regulatory authorities. With the passage of time, the vaccines may lose their efficacy owing to the slow chemical reactions. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) stability when it comes to a vaccine is the ability of a vaccine to retain its chemical, physical, microbiological and biological properties within specified limits throughout its shelf life.
Dr Maurya adds, “The COVID-19 vaccine came at the time of a pandemic and has proved efficient in saving lives. With the virus evolving the studies and research into the vaccine efficacy is also evolving.”
— BharatBiotech (@BharatBiotech) December 20, 2021
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)