Vaccinating the young: Rains play spoiler on Day 1 in Tamil Nadu

As the COVID inoculation drive kicked off for those aged 15 to 18 years on Monday, many schools in Chennai waited for rainwater to drain out before setting up vaccination camps.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin flagged off the vaccination drive in his state on Monday at a government high school in Saidapet.

COVID vaccination has been opened for teens aged 15 to 18 years as Omicron tightens its grip on India, but on Day 1 Tamil Nadu has struggled to execute the inoculation drive. Incessant rain and subsequent flooding have left the administration in trouble, unable to set up vaccination camps on campus.

Government schools such as Jaigopal Garodia in Chennai have been affected.

“Our school is flooded due to the rainfall. Only after the rainwater has drained can we proceed to set up the vaccination camps. We will decide on arrangements with the state government’s instruction once the situation is suitable,” one staffer said.

The management of another government school in Chennai’s Saligramam too said they will begin setting up vaccination camps after water on the campus drains or dries. They have also been instructed to vaccinate students on the weekends to minimise the effect on school classes.

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On Christmas day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced vaccination for the 15 to 18 age group from January 3 in view of the rising COVID graph. Registrations for the same started on the CoWin app on January 1 and 8 lakh teens have signed up so far.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin flagged off the vaccination drive in his state on Monday at a government high school in Saidapet.

“The government worked to protect people’s livelihood and the state’s economy from the effect of the pandemic. But now the new variant of Omicron has begun to threaten us with new challenges. In future, Tamil Nadu must be the first state to get completely relieved of the pandemic. We need the cooperation of people apart from government efforts,” he said.

Lavanya, a Class 12 student from Government Girls Higher Secondary School in Saidapet, said: “I got myself vaccinated during the drive’s inauguration function. I feared going outside before getting vaccinated. Now I feel safe. I suggest everyone should get the shot.”

According to paediatrician Rajmohan, only Covaxin is being used to vaccinate those in the 15 to 18 group. No complaints have been registered in any hospital so far for side-effects of the vaccination in students.

Also read: Explained: Booster COVID shots and the immunity puzzle

The doctor also pointed out that COVID infection in the younger age group was mild and even the rate of transmission was low. “So far, vaccination for students has not been mandated. Also, classes up to 8 are closed for offline classes till January 10. But college students above 18 years have been asked to get vaccinated,” Rajmohan said.

Some students are apprehensive about the upcoming exams. One student from a private school, Surya, said, “I am not ready to take the vaccination right now because I have exams coming up. My parents and my sister had severe fever after vaccination. So, I will take the jab after my exams.”

Jayabal, the parent of a Class 12 student, needed more assurance about the jab. “I will be happy to allow my son to be vaccinated if the government assures that no side effects will mar his education. When I went to take the jab, I was asked to declare that I was taking the vaccine at my own risk. A similar statement cannot be allowed for teens. The government should assure us about the safety and health of our children post-vaccination.”

Despite the parents and students’ varied responses on vaccination, teachers are unanimously welcoming the move to inoculate teenagers.

Senthamizh Paavai, a teacher at a government school, said: “I welcome the move to vaccinate students between 15 to 18 years of age. I had been feeling uncomfortable taking classes for Class 12 students.” She added that it was advisable to vaccinate this age group as they move freely around the city and mix together.

Another teacher was of the view that students need not fear the jab and that all teachers were already vaccinated and in good health. “When we were taking classes online, it was difficult to get feedback from the students. Education was affected the most in this pandemic. Thus vaccination for this group is a good move,” she said.

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