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Centre pushes 11 States to step up vaccination; no national curbs

Our Bureau | | Updated on: Dec 24, 2021

A man dressed as Santa Claus seen distributing masks as part of an awareness programme in view of the increasing cases of Covid-19 and Omicron in Ahmedabad. | Photo Credit: VIJAY SONEJI

Experts to decide on jabs for children, booster dose

The Centre will wait for the expert view to decide on Covid vaccination for children and booster shots but focus on scaling up the pace of inoculation, with the Health Ministry on Friday impressing on 11 States to ramp up their effort. The States that are a cause of concern are Odisha, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Puducherry, Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya, Jharkhand, Manipur, Punjab and Nagaland. So far, India has reported 358 Omicron cases.

“We are continuously engaging with the States to increase the vaccination coverage. We are on a mission mode approach to fight Omicron. States need to increase testing, tracking and surveillance to detect the cases,” Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said. He added that the treatment protocol will remain the same for Omicron as that for the Delta strain.

On the need for a booster dose and vaccinating vaccination, Bhushan said, “In Parliament, the government had categorically said that we would be governed by the scientific evidence on deciding the need for additional dose or children vaccination. Our stand remains the same. Antibody titres, T cells behaviour and hybrid immunity behaviour over a period of time will decide.”

Indian Council of Medical Research Director-General Balram Bhargava said vaccination of children and booster dose are being discussed and the government is reviewing data from across the world.

“There is not enough data worldwide to show that the children are reacting differently to Omicron. It doesn’t seem that this virus has any special attachment for children. Children have been the part and parcel of the transmission chain of Sars-CoV-2 in general and therefore that should be factored in any decision taken with respect to epidemiology, etc…,” VK Paul, Member-Health, NITI Aayog, said on the effect of Omicron on children.

Night curfew in UP, M.P.

With the Centre saying that localised restrictions have been left to the States, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh announced night curfew. “Omicron contact tracing is being very aggressively pursued as part of the strategy. We are leaving it to the States that as per the emerging situation they have to take decisions on the lines of framework being prepared for Covid management,” said Paul.

International travel curbs

The Centre is closely monitoring the Omicron situation for resumption of international flights. Scheduled international flight operations to and from India remain suspended till January 31, while the bubble agreements will continue.

Ministry of Civil Aviation sources said a meeting with the Union Health Department officials was held to review the situation. “No major decision was taken. Resumption of operations will depend on how the Omicron situation plays out in India and abroad. As of now there is no hurry on resumption,” said persons with knowledge of the matter.

Further curbs could come in if the situation worsens.

The Health Secretary said the WHO does not favour a blanket ban on international travel.

Published on December 24, 2021
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