India may begin inoculating children in the 12-14 age group against COVID-19 in March as the 15-18 population is likely to get fully vaccinated by then, Dr N K Arora, chairman of the COVID-19 working group of National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), said on Monday.
Of the estimated 7.4 crore (7,40,57,000) population in the 15-18 age bracket, over 3.45 crore have received the first dose of Covaxin so far and their second dose is due in 28 days, he said.
"Adolescents in this age group have been actively participating in the inoculation process, and going by this pace of vaccination, the rest of the beneficiaries in the 15-18 age group are likely to be covered with the first dose by January-end and subsequently their second dose is expected to be done by February-end," said the Chairman of the Covid working group of the NTAGI.
Once the 15-18 age group is covered, he said, the government is likely to take a policy decision for initiating the vaccination drive for the 12-14 age group in March, he said.
According to him, there is an estimated 7.5 crore population in the 12-14 age group.
Provisional vaccination reports till 7 am on Monday showed that with more than 39 lakh doses being administered in a span of 24 hours, the cumulative number has exceeded 157.20 crore doses.
According to government data, over 3.45 crore first doses have been given to children in the 15-18 years age group so far.
The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 last year with healthcare workers (HCWs) getting inoculated in the first phase.
The vaccination of frontline workers (FLWs) started from February 2, 2021.
The next phase of COVID-19 vaccination commenced from March 1 last year for people over 60 years of age and those aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions.
The country launched vaccination for all people aged more than 45 years from April 1, 2021.
The government then decided to expand its vaccination drive by allowing everyone above 18 to be vaccinated from May 1.
The next phase of COVID-19 vaccination has commenced from January 3 this year for adolescents in the age group of 15-18 years.
India began administering the 'precaution dose' -- a third jab of COVID-19 vaccine -- to healthcare, frontline workers including personnel deployed for election duty and those aged 60 and above with comorbidities from January 10 amid the country witnessing a spike in coronavirus infections, driven mainly by the Omicron variant of the virus.