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Covid-19 pandemic: Expect a slow but steady start to teen vaccination

Private hospitals across the country have started ordering Covaxin shots as they prepare to inoculate Indians between 15 years and 18 years against coronavirus — a drive that starts on Monday. Currently, Covaxin is the only authorised vaccine for teenagers in the country.

As many as 721,550 children in the 15-18 years age group had registered on the Co-WIN platform until 9.30 pm on Sunday.

On Monday, the vaccination drive for teenagers is likely to start slowly with most of the sites across India expected to administer only a few hundred doses each. But the pace is likely to pick up over the next few days and weeks.

Starting from government vaccination sites and private hospitals, the drive — that would cover an estimated 100 million children in India — would spread to schools and colleges over the next few days.

“We are starting with the jumbo Covid-19 centres for vaccinations, and going by demand in the first week, we would spread it to schools and colleges, too. For starters, we expect each of our nine jumbo centres to vaccinate around 500 children daily,” said Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

Mumbai has an estimated population of 920,000 children between 15 years and 18 years. The city has the capacity to vaccinate 100,000 people per day. If the vaccination drive is in full throttle, the city can vaccinate its entire eligible teenagers in less than 10 days. Similarly, Delhi can cover its children in this age group in 10-15 days.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said that the government can vaccinate 300,000 people daily, but currently only 100,000-150,000 people are being vaccinated each day. “We can increase the capacity if the need arises. Regarding children’s vaccination, we can inoculate all of them in 10-15 days,” he had said. The capital city, too, has plans to spread the drive to schools and colleges, provided at least 500 children are willing to take the jab at one site.

Hospitals in Kolkata (like AMRI Hospitals) have already reached out to schools to share the list of eligible students who can get the jab. Mumbai hospitals, too, plan to have tie-ups with schools for faster vaccinations.

The availability of Covaxin at private hospitals can be a major factor affecting the speed of the drive.

Private hospitals across the country had stopped or reduced ordering Covaxin, which is more expensive (Rs 1,200 per shot), after overall vaccination demand in India slipped.

Hospitals across the country are now placing orders for Bharat Biotech’s jabs. “We are starting the vaccination for the 15-18 years age group from tomorrow. While we have stocks available to kick off the programme, we will place orders for additional quantities,” said Dilip Jose, MD and CEO, Manipal Hospitals, headquartered in Bangalore.

Fortis hospital in Delhi will start vaccinating the teens at two of its centres from Monday. “Once Covaxin shots are procured, other centres, too, will be vaccinating these 15-18-year olds,” said Dr Bishnu Panigrahi, group head, medical strategy and operations, Fortis Healthcare.

Delhi-based Madhukar Rainbow Hospital for children has an opening stock of 5,000 doses of Covaxin and will replenish it, based on the volume of demand. In view of Omicron and to avoid crowding at their vaccination centres, only 500 slots have been opened for vaccination on January 3. Of these over 200 were booked.

“We want to keep it limited to ensure there is social distancing, and that Covid protocols are followed. We will also be setting up vaccination centres at schools, resident welfare associations, and clubs in the coming days,” said Dr Shivani Sabharwal, medical director, Madhukar Rainbow Hospital.

A Mumbai-based hospital said that it has around 20,000 doses of vaccines (of both Covishield and Covaxin), and it expects to exhaust the stock by February as health care and frontline workers are now eligible for additional shots. It is, thus, considering ordering more Covaxin now.

Mumbai’s Hinduja Hospital had seen the daily vaccination rate drop to 100 from a peak of 2,500. It now expects to give at least 500 shots a day following the expansion of the vaccination drive.

Bharat Biotech confirmed that it has started receiving fresh requests from the private sector.

Not all private hospitals are keen on placing Covaxin orders for vaccinating 15-18-year-olds as they feel that there is a lot of free vaccinations available at government centres, which is being underused.

“Vaccination is a right. The government has made all preparations to give a smooth and hassle-free experience. So, we would urge people to go and experience that,” said Shuchin Bajaj, Founder & Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals. Business Standard

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