Prime Minister Modi was the harbinger of much good news on Saturday night. To begin with, children aged 15- 18 can now avail of the COVID-19 vaccine from January 3. This decision, he said, had been taken in consultation with scientific advisers. Earlier in the day, the vaccine Covaxin was cleared for children above 12 by the drug regulator. The move is to be cleared by the government.
Likewise, healthcare and frontline workers will be able to take the ‘precautionary’ dose of the vaccine from 10 January. (The prime minister desisted from using the term ‘booster dose,’ preferring the word precaution instead).
In an address to the nation, in the backdrop of the raging pandemic and the lurking Omicron threat, he said the precaution dose will also be available for citizens above 60 years of age and those with comorbidities on the advice of their doctor; this will also come into effect from January 10 next year. The administration of nasal vaccine and world's first DNA vaccine against Covid will soon start as well, he said.
"Coronavirus is not gone... The world is now talking about Omicron. Today is Atal Bihari Vajpayee's birthday and Christmas, so we decided to announce this step today," he said. On the uptick in Omicron cases, the PM urged people not to panic.
"In India, many people have been found to be infected with Omicron. I would urge all of you not to panic, be careful and alert. Remember to wash hands and mask up," he said.
In a confidence building step, PM Modi also assured the citizens that all possible preparations are in place to tackle increasing infections. "India has 18 lakh isolation beds, 5 lakh oxygen supported beds, 1.40 lakh ICU beds, 90,000 paediatric ICU & non-ICU beds. We have more than 3,000 working PSA oxygen plants and 4 lakh oxygen cylinders have been distributed throughout the nation," he said, sharing the details with the nation.
The prime minister urged the citizens to not spread rumours and fake news and cautioned everyone to stay alert. "We have run the largest vaccination drive and we want to work to make it better. We have to strengthen the country against Covid," he said. ‘‘Today, more than 61 percent of India's adult population has received both doses of the vaccine. Similarly, about 90 percent of the adult population has been given a single dose of the vaccine," he said, hailing India's vaccination drive.
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