India begins Covid-19 vaccination drive for teenagers

100 million young people to be given doses before front-line workers and the elderly receive booster shots

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India on Monday introduced a Covid-19 vaccination campaign for teenagers aged 15-18, as it expands its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

About half a million young people received doses on the first day of the campaign, which aims to cover 100 million teenagers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Christmas Day inoculations for teenagers and also booster shots for front-line workers and India's elderly and vulnerable population.

The decision came amid fears of rising cases of Omicron and the threat of a third wave at a time when schools and colleges are reopening across the country, nearly two years since the pandemic forced their closure.

The government’s Covid-19 vaccination registration portal CoWin said more than 800,000 teens had registered to be vaccinated with the home-grown Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.

India is administering Covaxin for its adult population and last week gave it the emergency approval for the minor age group.

It is roping in schools to encourage parents to immunise their children and has set up special sections at hospitals and healthcare centres for vaccinating them.

The recipients will be monitored for 30 minutes at vaccination centres for any adverse effects and will be eligible for the second dose after 28 days.

Officials have approved walk-in centres to maximise the coverage of the drive.

In the capital Delhi, around 160 vaccination centres are administering doses to its one-million teenage population in the first phase of the drive.

The western city of Mumbai has set a target of inoculating 2,500 teenagers a day. Its civic body has set up dedicated vaccination areas in nine Covid-care centres, called "jumbo facilities", to ensure a speedy programme.

In the southern state of Kerala, dedicated centres are being set up at community and primary healthcare centres and authorities have put up "pink boards" to help identify registration counters and vaccination areas for children.

A teenager poses for photos after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine dose at a government hospital, in Hyderabad, India. Photo: AP

India has administered 1.4 billion doses of vaccines since it began vaccinations for healthcare and front-line workers last January, before extending the campaign to the adult population.

More than 90 per cent of its 944 million adults have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 62 per cent obtained two doses.

The country is experiencing a fresh wave of infections due to sharp rise in the highly transmissible cases.

The daily caseload has tripled in the past week.

On Monday, the country reported 33,750 Covid-19 cases and 123 deaths, taking the total infection tally to nearly 35 million and 481,893 deaths.

Updated: January 4th 2022, 10:08 AM