Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha launched the COVID-19 vaccination drive for beneficiaries in the 15-18 age group from a government school here on Monday, expressing confidence about completing the inoculation of the targeted 8.33 lakh population across the Union Territory in a week. The drive, a part of the national campaign against the Covid pandemic, generated hope among the students of class 9-11 as well as their teachers about resumption of their normal schooling which was badly hit by the disease since its outbreak in early 2020.
"As the inoculation drive for the children aged between 15 and 18 years started across the country, it has also launched in Jammu and Kashmir. In the coming week, the targeted population (8.33 lakh) will be vaccinated," the Lt governor told reporters after launching the vaccination drive from the Government Higher Secondary school for boys in Gandhi Nagar here. Lauding the contribution of the medical fraternity, including doctors and nurses, in the fight against the pandemic, Sinha said five districts, among a total of 20, have already registered 100 per cent vaccination of the targeted population.
"The government has assured 70 per cent doses (for the children) and the rest will be provided shortly. We are concerned about the completion of the process within the stipulated time," Sinha said. Referring to the high-level meeting chaired by him to review the COVID-19 status, Omicron and preparedness of health infrastructure here on Sunday, the Lt governor said the meeting was convened in the wake of increase in the cases of Omicron variant in the country.
"We are keeping our preparations ready. So far, we are saved from this (Omicron) threat," he said, adding "our effort is to provide the best possible (medical) services to the people". As many as 822 vaccination sites have been set up across 20 districts for the vaccination of the children, officials said, appealing to the youngsters to come forward and get themselves vaccinated. Later in a tweet, the Lt governor said, "COVID-19 vaccination starts for children aged 15-18 years in J&K. My humble request to the young friends to get vaccinated. Vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the pandemic."
The teenagers, who have turned up to get the first shot of COVID-19 vaccine, were excited and expressed a hope to get back to their schools soon. "I was waiting for the day to get my dose of the vaccine as the pandemic forced us to stay back at our homes most of the time over the past nearly two years. We want to get back to the school as soon as possible," Harmanjot Singh, a student of class 11 of a private school, said.
Principal of Jodhamal School Deep Khare said the response to the special camp organised at the school for the vaccination of the students was fantastic. "There was no apprehension in the mind of the student or their parents. Everyone was waiting for this vaccination drive and not a single parent raised any concern," he said. Khare said there are 550 students of 15-18 age group and some of the students who are outside the station due to ongoing winter vacation will be inoculated later. "The government has made the vaccination very easy and we believe it will be a game changer for resuming offline classes. After vaccination, the students can attend their classes without any fear and we are expecting to resume the offline classes for students of 9-11 classes shortly," he said.
On December 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the inclusion of the 15 to 18 age group in the nationwide Covid immunisation programme from January 3. Eligible teenagers will be administered Covaxin as it is the only vaccine with Emergency Use Listing (EUL) for the 15-18 age group, and it is also recommended by the 'COVID-19 Working Group' of the National Technical Advisory Group on immunisation. The children taking the vaccine were kept under observation for 30 minutes and would be given the second dose after 28 days. The parents accompanying their children also expressed satisfaction over the drive and possible resumption of offline classes.
-With PTI Inputs