Nearly 60mn in 15-18 age group have taken first jab: Govt data
Close to 60 million adolescents between 15-18 years of age, out of an estimated 74 million in the country, have received their first dose of a vaccine against Covid-19 till Tuesday, government data showed.
“Greetings to the youth power! More than 5 crore adolescents have been administered first dose of the Covid vaccine. Young India is fighting the pandemic with full vigour. Great going, my young friends! #SabkoVaccineMuftVaccine,” health minister Mansukh Mandaviya tweeted in a congratulatory message on Tuesday.
The government expanded its Covid-19 vaccination coverage to adolescents from January 3.
Although around 4.2 million adolescents received their first vaccine dose on day one, according to government data, it took at least a week to administer the second and final dose to these many eligible beneficiaries, reflecting a lukewarm response.
This was not unusual, officials said. “The trend that we have observed so far, usually it takes a few days for the second dose to pick up pace,” a health ministry official said on condition of anonymity. “The reason could vary, but prior infection could be one of the reasons, as you can take the vaccine only three months after having recovered from the disease.”
The central government has nevertheless directed the states to focus on beneficiaries who are overdue on their second dose, including the eligible adolescents, because the pending numbers keep adding up as days go by.
Currently, around 60-65 million beneficiaries are overdue for their second shot.
“Timely completion of Covid-19 vaccination schedule is important to confer full protection of vaccines to the recipients,” health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a recent letter to the states and union territories. “Hence, it is important that the coverage of 2nd dose amongst adolescents is reviewed daily at your level... and similar review is undertaken at district level as well.”
Children in India are being given Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin so far, although Zydus Cadila’s plasmid DNA vaccine has been approved by the drugs regulator for restricted emergency use for anyone aged 12 and above.
The decision to open up vaccination among children was precautionary, according to people familiar with the matter, as disease does not take a severe form in most children. This particular age group was chosen first because it is the most vulnerable group as it moves around and socialises much like adults.
Expanding vaccination coverage to this age cohort also reduces the risk of infections among more vulnerable family members, said a health expert.
“Children may show mild symptoms largely, but they can bring infection home and elders and sick family members could be at risk. It was a good idea to open up vaccination for children,” said Dr JS Bhasin, director and head, department of paediatrics, BLK Hospital, Delhi.