Dr N K Arora, chairman of the Covid-19 working group of the National Technical Advisory Range on Immunisation, informed TOI on Sunday that the Covid immunisation campaign will begin for the 12-14 age group by the end of February.
Vaccination of adolescents is making significant progress across the country. Only 13 days after the push began on January 3 this year, 3.31 crore youth aged 15 to 17 years old had received their first shot, accounting for about 45 percent coverage.
“We aim to cover all the 7.4 crore adolescents in the 15-17 age bracket with the first dose by January-end so that we can start vaccinating them with the second dose from early February and finish the second dose by February-end. We want to start vaccinating children between 12 and 14 years from February-end or early March,” Dr Arora said.
Children aged 12 to 17 are quite like adults, experts said. “So, the decision was mainly taken to protect the adolescents in the 15-17 group first. Once their full vaccination is done, the government will take up the policy decision to include the next age group, which is the 12-14 bracket,” he added.
Because adolescents are so mobile, it is critical to immunise them. They attend schools and colleges, socialise, and are at high risk of infection, particularly from the fast-moving Omicron coronavirus strain. This is why, according to analysts, the government prioritised this group of under-18s.
“Expanding the ambit of children’s vaccination is a welcome step. The government should also consider prioritising the vaccination of comorbid children in the 5-14 age group as they are also more at risk of developing severe Covid,” said Dr Pramod Jog, former national president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics.
The Covaxin vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech and provided to the country’s adolescents (15-17 age range) has received Emergency Use Approval from the Centre for children aged 2 to 17. In trials with children aged 2 to 17, the vaccination was proven to be safe and effective.