The vaccine option for those in the 15-18 age group would only be Covaxin

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Sunday said States and Union Territories should take necessary measures, including setting up separate vaccination centres, to avoid mixing-up of COVID-19 vaccines during administration of shots to those in the 15-18 age group.

Inoculation of children in this age category will start on January 3.

The vaccine option for those in the 15-18 age group would only be Covaxin, according to a set of new guidelines issued by the Union Health Ministry. Besides Covaxin, the adult population of the country is being administered Covishield and Sputnik V.

To ensure smooth implementation of the guidelines, Mr. Mandaviya held an online interaction with Health Ministers and Principal Secretaries and additional Chief Secretaries for health of States and Union Territories (UTs).

He advised them to ensure orientation of vaccinators and vaccination team members for the inoculation exercise for those in the 15-18 age group and for identification of dedicated vaccination session sites for this category of beneficiaries, a Health Ministry statement said.

"To avoid mixing-up of vaccines during administration, separate Covid vaccination centres (CVCs), separate session sites, separate queue (if at same session where adult vaccination is ongoing) and separate vaccination team (if at same session site) are to be strived for," Mr. Mandaviya said.

States and UTs were advised to share their requirement of vaccine doses by giving district-wise estimation of beneficiaries, using Co-WIN, and plan for distribution of Covaxin to identified session sites well in advance, the statement said.

Mr. Mandaviya reviewed the public health preparedness for COVID-19 and progress of the national vaccination campaign in view of rising cases of the Omicron variant.

The statement said that he also reviewed the recent decisions to roll-out vaccination for the 15-18 age group and "precautionary dose" (third dose) for identified vulnerable categories.

The online meeting was officiated by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan.

The Minister noted that at the outset, countries are experiencing three to four times surge in COVID-19 cases in comparison to their earlier peaks.

The Omicron variant being highly transmissible, a high surge could overwhelm the medical system, Mr. Mandaviya noted.

He advised states to leave no stone unturned in ramping up infrastructure to manage a high surge so that India escapes unscathed from this episode of the pandemic, the statement stated.

Mr. Mandaviya said in this regard, irrespective of Covid variants, measures for preparedness and protection remain the same.

He urged States and UTs to re-invigorate their teams to work at the ground level and strengthen monitoring and containment mechanisms.

In the meeting, a detailed discussion on various aspects of Covid management, including ramping up hospital infrastructure, increasing testing, stringent restrictive measures for breaking the chain of transmission, and stress on Covid-appropriate behaviour, was held, the statement said.

Critical bottlenecks in medical infrastructure were also discussed.

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