Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Saturday that the central government will roll out COVID-19 vaccination for children in the age group of 5 to 15 years as soon as it receives recommendation to that effect from a group of experts.
Mandaviya told this to reporters here when he was asked about the government's approach towards the vaccination for children in the age group of 5 to 15 years.
He said the group of experts has so far not made any recommendation on the vaccination of this category.
The minister was here to take part in a programme organised by the BJP on the Union Budget that was presented on February 1.
"When to vaccinate and to which age group is decided on the basis of recommendation of a group of scientists. We had implemented its recommendation for the precaution group within one week. We will surely implement its recommendation (for 5 to 15 age group) as and when we receive it," he said in a press conference.
The country-wide COVID-19 vaccination of children in 15-18 age group began last month.
"Today, vaccination is not an issue. We have enough vaccines, there is no shortage of doses. We will definitely follow the recommendation of the scientific community," Mandaviya added.
The government has so far not received any such recommendation, and a decision in this regard will be taken in the coming days on that basis. It is not a political decision. Sero survey and sero prevalence survey in July-August last year showed that 67 per cent children also developed anti-bodies, and children remained asymptomatic, he said.
"Ultimately, these are biological things. Therefore, scientists study before making recommendations. Earlier we used to follow the world (for recommendations regarding vaccination). Today, our scientists conduct their own analysis, they have their own study, and make opinions based on this," he said.
He also said that India used vaccination very effectively to fight the pandemic during its third wave.
Large-scale vaccination helped India counter the third wave, as attested by top institutes across the world and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the minister added.
He said 75 per cent of children (15-18 age group) have received their COVID-19 vaccination doses and 96 per cent adults have received the first dose, while 77 per cent have got both the doses.
The ICMR studies showed that COVID-19 vaccination has helped most of the people, and as a result, the country is moving towards the flattening of the curve, he said, adding, "On the basis of all this, I can certainly say that India has been able to use vaccination very effectively to fight against COVID-19 crisis," he said.
He said the government's emphasis on vaccination during the lockdown in 2020, soon after the outbreak of the virus, helped India sustain its growth and not suffer from high inflation and negative growth like what is seen in the US and Europe.
Mandaviya said that research on vaccination was taken on priority basis and the government offered funds for it, and by January 16 last year, India's indigenously-manufactured vaccine was launched along the same time the vaccines developed in other counties.
"India offered vaccination to the world, and even started manufacturing it at a fast pace. The result was that by the time the third wave (of COVID-19 pandemic) came, we had moved ahead of the world in vaccination. We were saved in the third wave, because India completed 96 per cent of the first dose," he said.
Talking on the Union Budget, Mandaviya said it will usher in a golden age for India.
"I believe its implementation will increase the pace of comprehensive and time-bound development in the right direction," he said.
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