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After vaccinating 70% of adults, focus turns to those below 15 yrs

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After fully inoculating over 70 per cent of the adult population, rolling out the vaccination of its population between 15-18 years as well as kicking off ‘precautionary’ shots for healthcare workers and those above 60 years, the government is now ready to turn its attention towards two key areas: exploring the possibility of mixing vaccines and considering the vaccination of children below 15 years, a well-known daily has reported.

India on Sunday completed one year of its mega vaccination drive, the largest in the world. The country has administered a total of 156.76 crore doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, meaning every seven in 10 adults of the population above 18 years have been fully vaccinated since the government kicked off the vaccination drive on January 16 last year. While the government took it forward by launching the vaccination drive for teens in the 15-18 age group on January 3, precautionary shots are being administered to three priority groups since January 10.

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The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), the government’s nodal body on vaccination policy, is now reportedly studying the advanced clinical trial data to check if vaccine based on a platform different from the first two shots, can be used as a “precaution” dose in the age group above 60 years.

According to the report, the COVID-19 team of NTAGI is mainly examining a “heterologous regimen” within the existing groups which have been approved for precaution doses. While the group is in close contact with institutions conducting the heterologous clinical trials, data on the same are expected to be submitted to the drugs controller general by this month’s end.

The NTAGI has recommended the government to next focus on the vaccination of children below 15 years, but once a substantial part of the population in 15-18 years is vaccinated.

So far, 46 per cent of teens in the 15-18-year age group have been given their first dose of the COVID vaccine since the vaccination drive started on January 3.

On Sunday, as India completed its first year of vaccination, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to congratulate everyone who was associated with the inoculation drive.

“…the role of our doctors, nurses and healthcare workers is exceptional. When we see glimpses of people being vaccinated in remote areas, or our healthcare workers taking the vaccines there, our hearts and minds are filled with pride,” Modi tweeted.

The feat, however, comes in the middle of a raging third wave of the pandemic with the country’s active cases hovering at 15.50 lakh and weekly positivity rate touching 14 per cent.

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So far, 17.92 lakh healthcare and 14.45 lakh frontline workers have been administered the “precautionary” dose.

“The entire world community is surprised with our efforts in fighting with COVID pandemic. Despite having a high density of population, we have been able to administer more than 156 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses. India has encountered various challenges along the journey but it is the resolve and dedication of more than 135 crore people that we could overcome every challenge,” Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said.

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