COVID-19 vaccines for 15-18 year olds; boosters for healthcare, frontline workers, senior citizens with comorbidities

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announces next step of vaccination even as entire adult population is yet to be fully vaccinated

By Joyjeet Das
Published: Saturday 25 December 2021
Narendra Modi Dec 25, 2021

Prime Minister Narendra Modi December 25, 2021 announced that vaccines against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be made available for children above 15 years from January 3, 2022. He added that “preventive” doses will be adminsitered to healthcare and frontline workers (HFW) of India from January 10.

On the same day, such booster doses will be available for senior citizens — those above 60 — with co-morbidies if recommended by their doctors, the PM informed.

The announcements came in the wake of increases in cases of infections with the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) — the latest variant of concern announced by the World Health Organization.

Also read Everyone DOESN’T need booster jabs of COVID-19 vaccines: Lancet study (but are the rich countries reading?)

India is yet to fully vaccinate its entire adult population, 11 months since the vaccination drive started. Many are yet to recieve even the first dose. These had posed question marks on whether booster shots would be adopted in the country though many developed nations have been administering them for some time. Israel reportedly have even started offering a fourth dose to its citizens. 

“It’s not that boosters are not required but India should be exploring what is the right interval between completed schedule and boosters and which should be the right population (for their application),” said public health expert and epiemiologist Dr Chandrakant Lahariya. He pointed out that vaccines in circulation in India have approval for application among children aged 12 years and above. Though all children need not be vaccinated, those at higher risk do and older children were at “far higher risk”, he added.

He welcomed the boosters for the newly eligible sectionand said the interval between now and when they were vaccinated was good enough to qualify for additional doses. 

Immunologist Vineeta Bal welcomed the decision to inoculate children, considering that ZyCov-D and Covaxin are both already approved for 12 years and above. She, however, highlighted supply-side concerns, especially for Covaxin. Even by the PM’s announcement, about four in 10 adults are yet to be fully vaccinated. 

Regarding boosters, she underscored that the priority should be two doses for all eligible before considering boosters for HFWs. Even then, those who have been infected once should be screened, she said.

The WHO, including Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus and other top functionaries have consistently argued for fully vaccinating as many as possible before considering boosters — a stand mostly directed until now against the Western world, including the United States, teh United Kingdom and Europe.

Richer countries have failed in holding up any global COVID-19 vaccine-share protocol and less-developed countries, especially those in Africa, have hardly got hold of vaccines. Notably, omicron’s rise in South Africa has been seen in conjunction with such vaccine disparity, especially since it has undergone nearly 50 mutations, 32 in the spike protein itself.

Details to the new vaccination schedules were not immediately available.

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