Covaxin only vaccine option for children in 15-18 years age group, says government

According to the guidelines, registration and appointment services can be accessed through online and onsite modes

Vaccination of adolescents aged 15-17 years will begin from January 3. 2022 though only Covaxin would be available. Healthcare workers and frontline workers who have received two doses, would be eligible for a “precaution dose” from January 10, 2022 though here, those with a gap of atleast 39 weeks since the second dose would be prioritised.

Those 60 years and above with comorbidities who have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, would on doctor’s advice be provided with a similar “precaution dose” from January 10, 2022. The prioritisation and sequencing of this dose would also be based on the completion of 9 months i.e. 39 weeks from the date of administration of second dose. This information was disclosed through a note via the Health Ministry.

Those whose birth year is 2007 or before will be able to register on Co-WIN from January 3. They can self-register online through an existing account on Co-WIN or create a new account through a unique mobile number. They can also be registered onsite by the verifier/vaccinator in facilitated registration mode. Appointments can be booked online or onsite (walk-in).

Healthcare workers, frontline workers and citizens aged 60 years or above with comorbidities will be able to access the vaccination for the precaution dose through their existing Co-WIN account. The Cowin system will send SMS to such beneficiaries for availing the precaution dose when the dose becomes due. It is however unclear from the health ministry note if the precaution dose would be a third dose of the same vaccine or any other vaccine. Currently the only vaccines that have been administered to Indians are Covishield, Covaxin and a few doses of Sputnik V.

“All citizens irrespective of their income status are entitled to free COVID-19 vaccination at Govt. vaccination centres. Those who have the ability to pay are encouraged to use vaccination centres at private hospitals,” the note underlined.

The decision to expand vaccination coverage was due to a rapid rise in the number of Omicron cases in India and “inputs and suggestions” from India’s National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, the note added.

The NTAGI has been deliberating months on the question of the most appropriate combination of booster doses or expanding the vaccination programme to those below 18.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said last week that all studies to date show a “strong immunological response” when a third dose was administered. However there was insufficient data and too little follow-up to assess the duration of the response. “Both homologous (vaccines of the same kind) and heterologous (mixed vaccines) booster regimens are immunologically effective,” they noted, “All studies demonstrate an improvement in protection against infection; milder disease; as well as severe disease and death.”

Mr Modi announced on Saturday, Christmas night, 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.

Vaccinations for those 15-17 he said, would 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.

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