Chairman of National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization Dr NK Arora has said the government is likely to expand the vaccination programme and start inoculating 12-14-year-olds from February-end.
“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 told The Times of India.
So far, a total of 3.31 crore children in the age bracket of 15 to 17 years have already received their first dose. The drive has covered 45% of children in this age group, all within 13 days into the drive, which began on January 3 this year.
Experts said that children aged 12 to 17 are quite like adults, 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,” Arora added.
Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, which is being given to the country’s adolescents (15-17 group) has the Centre’s Emergency Use Approval for children in the 2-17 group.
Reportedly due to the high mobility of adolescents- to schools, colleges, public transport, immunising them becomes a priority to contain further spread of fast-paced variants like Omicron. This is why the government prioritised this group from the under-18 category, experts said.
“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,” Dr Pramod Jog, former national president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics told TOI.