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Ending Long Wait: India Vaccinates Its Young Population Against COVID-19

© REUTERS / AMIT DAVESchool girls receive a dose of Bharat Biotech's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, Covaxin, during a vaccination drive for children aged 15-18 in Ahmedabad, India, January 4, 2022.
School girls receive a dose of Bharat Biotech's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, Covaxin, during a vaccination drive for children aged 15-18 in Ahmedabad, India, January 4, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.01.2022
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India on 3 January started inoculating its adolescent population aged between 15-18. On the first day of the drive, the nation vaccinated about four million of its population.
When COVID-19 hit India in 2020, one of the first things it affected was education. The routine of in-class study was called off as masking and social distancing norms were yet to be made mandatory to curb the spread of the contagious virus.
In various cities, many children haven't even been to a school once in these two years, and parents are bothered about their children's education and outdoor activities.
On 25 December, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India would start an inoculation drive for young people aged between 15-18 years, it brought a sense of relief and hope to parents and children for a relatively safer time ahead.
On Monday and Tuesday, many children dressed up in school uniforms, were seen standing in queues at schools and vaccination centres in Delhi.
At present, India is only giving children the domestic vaccine from Bharat Biotech, Covaxin.
Aakash Sahotra, 17, seemed excited after getting inculated along with his classmates at Sarvodaya Bal School in the city's Lakshmi Nagar area. "We were waiting for this for so long".
"Although for the past two years, we've been attending online tuition and classes, it sometimes gets boring and redundant, I believe after vaccination we can physically attend the classroom", he said.
"Everyone in my family is vaccinated, I'm the youngest one and this vaccine makes me as strong as anyone else in my family", another student, Jagjeet Singh, said cheerfully.
Last week, amid a surge in coronavirus cases, the Delhi government ordered the complete closure of schools and all educational institutions. No directive or guidelines about the reopening of schools in the near future has been issued.
In recent weeks, several countries, including the United States and Britain, have seen a rise in infections among children, and experts have urged parents to get their children vaccinated. More than 40 nations worldwide have already started vaccinations for children above 12 years.
Talking to Sputnik, Dr Veena Verma, head of immunisation in East Delhi, said: "When we started the vaccination drive for adults last year, there was hesitancy. I don't see it now".
"The numbers speak for itself -- the turnout number has been amazing for both days. It's hundred percent in my area and no adverse reactions have been reported so far". "There is no fear of vaccination now among children. They're excited and very optimistic", Dr Verma said.
As per government data, India has more than 120 million people aged between 15 and 19 and the largest population of adolescents globally, as per the United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF).
"I was waiting for this for a long time. Now, my parents will have mental peace that we're (their children) vaccinated and can attend outdoor activities", said 16-year-old Shivanshi, a skating champion at her school, who hasn't been able to practice for two years.
There has been a debate over the merits of vaccinating children who do not have underlying conditions, as the chances of them developing a severe illness from COVID-19 are quite low, and this has to be balanced against the vaccine's potential side effects.
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