- The ominous signs appearing vis-à-vis Omicron variant are already portending bigger troubles and accompanying challenges to several countries battling from the successive Covid waves over the last two years. India as a country can be allowed to express a somewhat mixed feeling for the way our authorities have handled the crises so far. Remember, the horrific second Covid wave during April-May 2021 simply ravaged our healthcare infrastructure leading to thousands of deaths. Having learned the gravest of lessons in a harsh manner, the Indian Government will not wish to be subjected to yet another round of mauling by the virulent virus.
- Yes, we have to learn to live with the virus by allowing economic activities to function to the maximum extent possible. As such, one of the effective measures to thwart the virus’s spread has been the administering of vaccines covering different age categories. From 03rd January 2022 onwards, the vaccination for children aged 15-18 years will begin which is bound to be welcomed by the worried parents and relieved schools owing to the delay on this front. We are aware the closure of schools has caused dire long-term implications as too many students and schools are finding it extremely difficult to adapt to online education.
- As announced by the Government of India, this is the first time Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin will have to do all the heavy lifting, being the only vaccine administered for the said age group. Reportedly, BB had set a target to manufacture 8 crore Covaxin doses in December. As the statistics suggest, the vaccine’s offtake among adults has been poor, barely notching 2 crore doses last month against 18 crore Covishield jabs. Note that the 15-18 age group numbers around 10 crores and BB must start meeting its production targets after falling short throughout 2021. Further, the precautionary dose program for health/frontline workers and senior citizens may also need Covaxin doses.
PC: Teena Thacker
- And if the authorities recommend mixing and matching vaccines by making Covaxin the third dose for those double dosed with Covishield, BB will have its hands full and must leave no stone unturned in meeting the expectations. Remember, Covovax and Corbevax are two other vaccines undergoing trials on children supplementing the vaccination drive. Needless to mention, all school-going children, not just the 15-18 cohort, must get jabbed too because foundational learning is just as important as other levels. Of course, the limited start on children’s vaccines will provide governments an idea of demand, supply requirements, and logistical challenges facing child vaccination.
- Mind you, the 5-14 age group is estimated to number around 24 crores. The CoWin app has already recorded nearly 7 lakh registrations for the 15-18 category which shows the eagerness of the children to move ahead. On its part, the governments should ensure an adequate supply of vaccine doses and also must stay alert for social media-driven misinformation, especially by the anti-vaxxer sections. In conclusion, it is incumbent the Government of India diligently pursues vaccinating younger children alongside a timeline. For this to fructify, the production side issues of Covaxin should be streamlined for any lag on the same will result in avoidable consequences.