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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

In January, shots for 15-18, boosters for elderly, healthcare staff: PM Modi

🔴 Amid fears over the spread of the Omicron variant, the Prime Minister, while telling the public not to panic and not to give up the practice of wearing masks and washing hands, listed the three priority groups for the “precautionary dose”.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi |
Updated: December 26, 2021 7:01:33 am
Children Coronavirus Vaccination, Children Covid-19 Vaccination News: People receive shots of a Covid-19 vaccine during a special immunisation drive in East Delhi on Saturday. (Express Photo: Amit Mehra)

In a surprise address to the nation on Christmas night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that Covid-19 vaccination will start January 3 onward for children in the 15-18 age group, while healthcare and frontline workers will be administered a booster — he called it “precaution dose” — from January 10.

The ”precaution dose” option, he said, will also be available from January 10 for citizens above the age of 60 with co-morbidities. They can take this shot on the advice of their doctors.

Amid fears over the spread of the Omicron variant, the Prime Minister, while telling the public not to panic and not to give up the practice of wearing masks and washing hands, listed the three priority groups for the “precautionary dose”, less than a year after the country rolled out its Covid-19 immunisation programme.

According to official estimates, there will be approximately 10 crore children in the 15-18 age group eligible for the Covid-19 vaccination. As of Saturday, 12.04 crore people over the age of 60 had received their first dose of vaccine; and 9.21 crore were fully vaccinated. Official data also showed that 1.03 crore healthcare workers had received their first dose, and 96 lakh were fully vaccinated; 1.83 crore frontline workers had received their first dose, and 1.68 crore were fully vaccinated.

“Today is also the birth anniversary of Atalji (former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee). We are also celebrating Christmas. So I thought I should share this decision today. Covid-19 vaccination will be introduced for all children in the age group 15-18 years. From January 3, 2022, we will start this drive. This decision will further strengthen our fight against the pandemic. Parents have been worrying about children returning to schools and colleges. This decision will help reduce their stress,” Modi said.

The announcement came hours after the country’s drug regulator granted emergency use authorisation (EUA) to Covaxin for vaccinating children in the 12-18 age group. With this approval, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin becomes the second vaccine to receive an EUA for the 12-18 age group — the drug regulator had earlier approved Zydus Cadila’s DNA Covid-19 vaccine for children above the age of 12.

The Prime Minister also said India will soon introduce a nasal Covid-19 vaccine and DNA vaccine.

He said the decision on “precaution dose” will strengthen confidence of health care workers and frontline workers.  “It is our experience that Corona warriors — the healthcare and frontline workers — have played the most significant role in our fight against the pandemic. Even today, they are spending an immense amount of time treating Covid-19 patients. Which is why, as a precautionary measure, the government has taken a decision that a precaution dose will be started for healthcare and frontline workers. This will begin from January 10, 2022,” he said.

Elderly citizens with associated comorbidities, he said, can avail the “precautionary dose” based on the recommendations of their treating physicians. “It is also our experience from the vaccination drive that the elderly and those who have serious comorbidities should take the extra precaution. Keeping this in mind, for those above the age of 60 years and with associated comorbidities, based on the recommendation of their doctors, precautionary vaccine dose will be made available to them. This also will start from January 10,” he said.

Modi underlined that decisions on prioritisation of vaccination have been taken on the basis of scientific recommendation from the experts.

“We all know that the pandemic is not yet over. In these circumstances, we have to remain vigilant. We have continuously worked towards keeping the country and citizens safe. We started the vaccination drive based on scientific recommendations: who should receive the first dose on priority; what should be the gap between two doses; when should recovered Covid-19 patients receive their dose; and when should comorbid patients receive the vaccine.  We have continuously taken these decisions that have been beneficial and helped us bring the situation under control,” he said.

“India has taken the decision based on its own situation. We have taken these decisions purely on the basis of the advice of India’s scientific community. At present, there is a lot of discussion on Omicron. The experiences are different in different parts of the world. The Indian scientific community is keeping a very close watch on these developments. We have completed 11 months since we launched the vaccination drive. They have examined the facts in totality, and learning from the global experience, they have made some decisions today,” he said.

The Prime Minister urged people not to panic and adhere to precautions in the backdrop of emergence of the highly contagious Omicron variant. “I have one request: please don’t spread rumours and fear. Please avoid those who are trying to spread fear. The country, together, has run the world’s largest vaccination drive. In the future, we need to further accelerate it. Our collective efforts will help strengthen the fight against the pandemic,” he said.

“In India, many people have been detected with Omicron. I would urge you all not to panic; you have to be careful and alert. Remember these things: wear the mask, and wash hands regularly. The global experience so far shows that following Covid-19 appropriate guidelines at an individual level is the greatest weapon to combat the infection,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that today, as the virus is mutating, “our capability and confidence to face the challenge is also multiplying along with our innovative spirit”. He said the country has 18 lakh isolation beds, 5 lakh oxygen-supported beds, 1.4 lakh ICU beds, 90000 ICU and non-ICU beds specially for children, more than 3000 PSA oxygen plants, 4 lakh oxygen cylinders. He said support to states is being provided for buffer doses and testing.

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