Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Saturday that teenagers in the 15-18 age group would be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, and frontline and health workers and senior citizens above the age of 60 with co-morbidities on the advice of doctors would be eligible for a what he termed a “precaution” or third dose.
In a late-evening televised address to the nation , Mr. Modi announced the dates for the commencement of this vaccination process. January 3, 2022 will see the roll-out of vaccination for 15- to 18-year-olds, while January 10 will be the commencement date for “precaution dose” for healthcare workers and the elderly with co-morbidities.
The announcement comes on the back of the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) giving emergency usage nod for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin to be used for children aged 12-18.
“All our decisions with regard to vaccination, their research, approval and certification has been scientifically driven as has our vaccination drive and who is eligible to vaccinated first, in that regard, these decisions today were made,” the Prime Minister said.
Vaccinations for children aged between 15 and 18, he said, will not only help protect them as schools have reopened in many places but also go a long way in assuring worried parents.
In the course of his nearly 15-minute address, the Prime Minister urged caution without panic in dealing with the Omicron variant.
He gave an overview of the ground-level preparations already made by the government with regard to healthcare systems in anticipation of Omicron and taking lessons from the second wave.
“Currently, nearly 90% of all those eligible for vaccines have had at least one dose, and 61% of eligible population has had both doses. We have over 18 lakh hospital beds available, out of which five lakh beds are oxygen supported. Almost 90,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds are for children alone, and over 3,000 PSA oxygen plants have been set up across the country,” Mr Modi said on health care infrastructure ramp up after the second wave devastated India in the summer months. “I would ask that you do not panic, but maintain caution in the face of the new mutation of the coronavirus. Maintain use of masks, and frequently wash hands. As we have faced the Coronavirus, our ability to fight it has also improved,” he said.