Teen spirit: 176,552 jabbed across Maharashtra
Mumbai: Relief and cheer writ large on the faces of teenagers who filed in to receive their first Covid dose, as the state rolled out the national vaccination drive for youngsters between 15 to 18 years on Monday.
Maharashtra administered 176,552 doses of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin – the only vaccine option for the 15 to 18 age group according to guidelines issued by the Union health ministry -- while 7,158 doses were administered in Mumbai. While Mumbai has a target of 900,000 children in the 15-18 years category, the state has a target of 6.06 million children.
Tanuja Makadwala and Rajan Bari, both class 10 students of Shastri Nagar Mumbai Public Secondary School (Santacruz West) were the first teenagers to get their doses in the city. They received their jabs at 11.15 am at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) jumbo Covid-19 centre as Maharashtra Tourism and Environment minister Aaditya Thackeray, who launched the drive virtually, looked on. Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar and civic commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal also participated in the virtual inauguration.
Makadwala and Bari were later felicitated with a certificate. “I would request everyone to take the dose as early as possible so that we can return to normal lives,” Makadwala said.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) set up vaccination booths in nine jumbo centres run by the civic body including at NSCI Worli, Kanjurmarg, NESCO, Richardson and Crudas (Byculla) and Mulund, among others. Apart from this, a handful of private hospitals also participated in the drive. Only the children of railway staff will be administered the vaccine at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Hospital at Byculla.
Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner and incharge of public health in the BMC said that the civic body has set a target to inoculate 4,500 students each day this week. All students will be vaccinated free of cost in Mumbai.
“In each centre we will be inoculating at least 500 teenagers daily. Each centre is equipped to administer 10,000 vaccines a day and if the need arises the limit can be easily expanded. We are eyeing a one-two months deadline for inoculating all the teenagers with at least one dose of the vaccine,” said Kakani.
Dr Mangala Gomare, Mumbai’s executive health officer said Mumbai has nearly 40 exclusive Covaxin centres which will be opened up for 15–18-year-olds. “All vaccination centres have created separate booths for the 15-18 age group so that there is no mixing of the crowd,” she said.
The civic body is hopeful that there will not be much hesitancy because of the increasing Covid-19 cases, she added.
Teenagers started to queue up outside the vaccination centres from the early hours on Monday with their parents. Civic-run schools also brought many students to the vaccination centres in large groups.
Nerrissa Mathews (16) from St. Joseph’s School Bandra said that taking the vaccine will make her parents feel more at ease.
“All the members in my family are fully vaccinated. As I have not taken my dose, my parents feel apprehensive to allow me to go out often. Now that I have taken the dose, this will make them feel a little bit relieved,” she said.
The Drugs Controller General of India granted emergency use authorisation to indigenously-developed Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for children above 12 years with certain conditions on December 24.
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has advised states and Union Territories to provide separate vaccination centres, session sites, queue and different vaccination teams for this age group to avoid the mixing-up of vaccines.
Schools mapped with centres
Each jumbo centre in the city has been mapped with at least two municipal wards and residents will be directed to their nearest centre. The civic body has tied up jumbo centres with the municipal schools in nearby wards.
The BKC Centre, which is in H/East ward, is mapped with Bandra East (same ward as BKC), Andheri East (K/East), and Bandra, Khar, Santacruz (H/West) wards. Similarly, NESCO Centre in Goregaon (P/South) has been mapped with Malad (P/North) and Kandivli (R/ South) wards.
The BMC has set a target of inoculating 500 students from all the municipal schools every day. The schools have been given a target to get minimum 50 students vaccinated each day. These students are escorted to the nearest jumbo centre by their teachers and online registration is not necessary for them.
“On Friday we were given the target and after that we have readied the list of our students. We have started with 50 students on Monday and as the drive goes on more students will be brought here in batches,” said Koli Nilappa, an assistant teacher at the BMC Hindi Secondary School in Kalina.
“The education and health department are working together in this. We have sent all the data of the students to the health department which is then sent to the nearest jumbo centres in advance so that when the students go, they have their credentials already registered,” said a senior official of the BMC education department.
All municipal schools had held parent-teacher meetings to counsel the parents about the vaccination and give consent letters. “The civic schools have received a very good response with a majority of the parents consenting for vaccination,” said Gomare, the city’s executive health officer.
“We are now working on a strategy to reach out to private schools and colleges. Our community health workers and outreach teams are also enlisting out-of-school children in their respective areas,” she added.
The window for online slot booking was opened on January 1 and the BMC had kept both the online and walk-in facilities available for the teenagers to expedite the process.
However, the teenagers and their parents stated that most of them had been facing technical issues during the online registration process. Many of them said that as the beneficiaries were less than 18 years old, there was no direct link available for them to get themselves registered in the Aarogya Setu app and Cowin platform.
Many centres received a popup stating the website was “not available in the country”. Centres then began registrations on mobile applications. The glitch was corrected by 11.30 am.
A dedicated helpdesk was set up to help teenagers register on the CoWin platform in many centres.
“We had anticipated that on the first day more beneficiaries will opt for offline registration, because of which we had deployed dedicated staffers to help students register. After they received the OTP, they were taken into the centre for inoculation,” said Dr Rajesh Dere, dean of the jumbo facility at BKC.
“The drive received a very good response, and we did not record any adverse event due to immunisation,” he said.
Tushar Shetty (15) a science student from SIS Commerce and Science society high school said that now that he has taken the dose, he will be allowed to travel on train.
“Earlier I used to take train for going to school but now I can’t get the ticket as I am not vaccinated and travelling in autorickshaw costs me a lot of money and often I have to share the ride with my friends. Now that I have taken the first dose now and will become fully vaccinated soon, I can again go by train,” said Shetty.
Dev Trivedi, a 15-year-old said that in his school the students have been strictly instructed to take the vaccines or else they will not be allowed to sit in the exams.
“Many schools that we know have taken this vaccine thing very seriously, we were told that they are gearing up to start offline classes soon and before that each one of us needs to be fully vaccinated,” he said.
Hopeful for the future
“Many students I know couldn’t go abroad for higher studies after 10th as they were not vaccinated. Besides safeguarding them from the virus, these vaccines will also open the doors of their careers again,” said Mohanlal Sharma, who had accompanied his daughter at the NESCO facility.
“The cases have started to rise again and it’s difficult to keep children indoors all the time, which is also not good for their mental health also. Vaccinating them was necessary as they can now gradually get back to normal lifestyle,” said Tara Ahuja who came with her 15-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter at the NESCO facility.
Many children who participated in the drive also came equipped with the knowledge of the importance of the vaccination and possible side effects.
“I read many research papers and articles about the efficacy and safety of Covaxin,” said Kabir Kumar Parmani (16), a class 10 student Arya Vidya Mandir in Bandra. “I was determined to take the vaccine and I have told my younger brother to take the vaccine as soon as he is eligible. It’s the best weapon we have to fight the virus,” said Parmani, who aspires to pursue a career in oncology.
For Mansi Patel (15) and her brother Varas (19), the increasing Covid-19 cases and the lack of access to unvaccinated people were two motivating factors to take the jab. “We are facing problems to enter malls. Going to school and college will also be difficult without being safeguarded by the vaccine. Not just our parents, we ourselves were very keen to take the shot,” said Patel adding that they stay in a large family with seniors and much younger children. “Being unvaccinated was very risky for us,” she said.
Private hospitals too ordered more stocks of Covaxin anticipating the rise in demand. For instance, Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai Central had 500 doses of Covaxin and they have placed orders for more. “We administered 89 vaccines to children in the 15-18 category on Monday,” said Dr Parag Rindani, chief executive officer of the hospital. We are looking forward to vaccinating more and more children in the coming days,” he said.
Drive in Navi Mumbai and Thane
The Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) have vaccinated 9070 students in the age group of 15- to 18-year-old at its 206 centres set up for the purpose, on the first day of the children vaccination drive. The Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) vaccinated over 3,000 children while the Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) vaccinated 2,563 students on the first day.
Around 500,000 students will be getting jabbed across Thane district in this vaccination drive.
“We have set up vaccination centres for 15- to 18-year-olds at 206 schools across the city. The students will have to be accompanied by their parents for the vaccination. They will also have to get their mobile phones along to register online for the jab. The schools will be responsible for giving the slots to their students to ensure every one of them get the jab,” an officer from NMMC said.
TMC has initiated the vaccination of 15- to 18-year-olds with their first dose at 16 centres in the city. “We have a target of vaccination 1000 students at the parking plaza centres daily, apart from this, 500 to 600 beneficiaries will be vaccinated in the 15 other centres. On day one more than 3000 students were vaccinated across the 16 centres,” Dr Prasad Patil, immunization officer, TMC, said.
Kalyani Chavan, 15, a class 10 student was excited to get her first dose before the final examinations. She said, “Our School, Brahman Vidyalaya in Vartak Nagar, Thane had set up a vaccination drive for us. We have to give offline exams which pose a risk especially when the cases are increasing. As this is a crucial year for me, I decided to take the dose on the first day itself so I can complete the two doses before my board examinations.”
Mahi Deliwala (16), Kandivali resident
Class 11, NM College
“The vaccine is for our safety and the safety of people around us. I believe that everyone should take it to fight the virus. I had made up my mind to take the vaccine as soon as it would start for my age group. I had also discussed this with my close friends and they will also be taking it.”
Vineet Yadav (15), Goregaon resident
Class 9, Pahadi Municipal School
“My parents were scared of the side effects but they agreed to give the consent to the school as all other parents had done it. I was not worried about the vaccine, as so many people have already taken it and all my friends were taking it too. We all gathered at the school and came in a bus to the vaccination centres. Our school teachers have counselled us about the basic side effects.”
Jayita Sadani (16), Chembur resident
Class 11, Swami Vivekanand College
“I didn’t give much of thought. My parents were convinced that I should take the vaccine because I am the youngest in the family and the only person who was unvaccinated till now. Our college had also made an announcement asking us to take the vaccine. I registered online on January 1 so that I could get the injection on the first day itself.”
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