India will start rolling out its first COVID-19 vaccines for teenagers aged 15 and above starting Jan. 3, 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Saturday.
“This decision will not only strengthen the nation’s fight against coronavirus, but it will also reduce the worries for school-going children and their parents,” he said in a live broadcast.
The country will also offer booster doses for people above the age of 60 starting from Jan. 10, 2022. Modi did not refer to the booster shots as such, but called then “precautionary dose[s]” of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Those above the age of 60 with co-morbidities will be provided an option of precautionary dose of vaccine on advice of the doctors,” he said.
Health care and frontline workers will also be provided with COVID-19 vaccine booster doses starting on Jan. 10, 2022. “From the view of safety, the government has decided to give precautionary doses to healthcare and frontline workers,” Modi said.
For teens, Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) recently approved the use of Covaxin, developed locally by Bharat Biotech, in children aged 12 and above, the company announced on Twitter shortly after Modi’s announcement.
The drug regulator previously approved the ZyCoV-D vaccine, locally developed by Zydus Cadila, for children aged 12 and above.
But ZyCoV-D is yet to be included in the immunization program, reported The Hindustan Times.
Other vaccines currently in use in India include Covishield (trade name of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine), Johnson & Johnson, and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
Reuters reported in September, citing anonymous government sources, that the Indian government will not buy the mRna-based COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna for the time being mainly because “domestic output of more affordable and easier-to-store vaccines has jumped.”
“In our country, a nasal vaccine and the world’s first DNA vaccine will also start soon,” Modi said in his announcement. ZyCoV-D is the world’s first DNA-based COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, The nasal vaccine Modi referenced is BBV154. This vaccine is developed by Bharat Biotech and is intended as a booster dose on people vaccinated with Covishield or Covaxin, reported the Times of India.
India, with a population of about 1.3 billion people, has reported a recent rise in Omicron cases, with the number reaching 415 overall across 17 Indian states.
India’s Health Ministry said on Saturday it had detected 358 Omicron cases since the start of December. The ministry added that just under a third of the people infected with the Omicron variant had already recovered.
At least 88 percent of India’s adult population have had one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 61 percent have had two doses.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.