Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the start of vaccination for children in the 15-18 age group from January 3 next year as he emphasised precaution in view of the rising cases of Omicron variant of the coronavirus in the country.
"It is a welcome decision. The next plan should be to vaccinate children above 5 years old. Paediatricians should be allowed to vaccinate these children in their clinics," Dr Dhiren Gupta, a paediatric pulmonologist at Delhi's Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told ANI.
"Not only we should target 13 years plus children, but also we should target 5 years old also. That should be our next plan. All paediatricians should be allowed to vaccinate these children in their clinics if we want to expedite the vaccination process," he added.
Gupta said most of the children from this age group visit paediatric clinics and the process of vaccination can be expedited "rather than limiting it to a few vaccination centres."
Dr Gupta also said the "precaution dose" of the Covid-19 vaccine to healthcare and frontline workers should be given earlier than announced by PM Modi.
"But why wait till January 10. Every day is important in a pandemic. We know that Omicron is increasing at a fast pace. We will get variations of this virus. A booster dose takes approximately three weeks to make sufficient antibodies. The booster vaccination should start within two or three days. Looking at the entire population, we should start it as soon as possible".
The Prime Minister also said healthcare and frontline workers, who he said have made a big contribution in keeping the country safe against Covid-19, will be given a "precaution dose" from January 10 next year. "The decision of precaution dose will strengthen the confidence of healthcare and frontline workers," he said.
He also said senior citizens with co-morbidities will also have the option to go for a precautionary dose of Covid-19 on the advice of their doctors.
The Prime Minister said that 61 per cent of the adult population in the country have been fully vaccinated and 90 per cent of them has received the first dose. India started its vaccination drive on January 16 this year.
PM Modi also urged people not to panic and to follow precautions such as masks and washing hands repeatedly.