Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday made key announcements regarding Covid-19 vaccination in the country amid the growing number of infections and Omicron cases. The PM announced that India will soon start vaccination for children in the age of 15-18 year from January 3, 2022. Modi, in his address to the nation, also said that the booster doses for healthcare and frontline workers will be administered from January 10. In addition, those above 60 years of age with comorbidities will also have access to the “precaution dose” after their respective doctor’s advice. The PM also stated that, Nasal vaccine and world’s first DNA vaccine against Covid-19 will also be soon available for inoculation.
Keeping in mind the rising number of Covid-19 infections and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, Modi urged the people not to panic and to be cautious while celebrating the New Year festivities. “Many people in India have also been found to be infected with omicrons. I would urge all of you not to panic be careful and alert. Wash masks and hands briefly,” he said.
The Prime Minister highlighted the fact that following all measures and guidelines, will definitely prove to be a weapon against Coronavirus. “Covid-19 experience of fighting the global epidemic so far suggests that following all guidelines at the individual level is a great weapon to compete with corona. And the second weapon is vaccination,” he said. Modi also stated that more than 141 crore doses have been administered in India and more than 90% eligible population has been vaccinated with the first dose of vaccine.
The Prime Minister in his address assured the citizens of India that the government was prepared and doing everything possible to tackle the increasing number of infections. He also gave a list of number of beds available throughout the country. “Today, the nation has 18 lakh isolation beds, 5 lakh oxygen-supported beds, 1.4 lakh ICU beds, and 90,000 special beds for children. Today, we have over 3,000 functional PSA Oxygen plants and 4 lakh Oxygen cylinders have been provided to all states,” the PM noted. “Apart from research on the vaccine, we were also working on approval processes, supply chains, distribution, training, IT support system, and certification. With these efforts, India started vaccinating its citizens on January 16 this year,” he further added.
Expert for clear policy on the vaccines to be used for the added dose
Experts have hailed the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, December 25th to provide booster vaccine doses to healthcare workers and elderly (over 60 year olds) with comorbidities. Though he has termed these as vaccine doses to be administered as a precautionary measure. “It is good to hear that boosters were announced, albeit limited,” says Shahid Jameel, virologist and fellow, OCIS and Green Templeton College, University of Oxford. However, he added, “What is important is a clear policy on what vaccines would be used as boosters.” Jameel, who is also a visiting professor at the Ashoka University in India, has been maintaining and writing that there is need for India to come up with a clear policy on booster doses and on vaccinating children.
The Prime Minister also announced that starting January 3rd , children in the age group of 15 to 28 years would also be inoculated. Dr Jameel and other experts have been seeking clarity on which vaccines are to be used and the number of doses. There has also been a view among some experts, including Jameel, that perhaps it is time for India to reduce the gap between the two doses of Covishield from 16 weeks to 12 weeks.