India started vaccination of young people aged 15 to 18 against Covid-19 on Monday, as the authorities strengthen health measures in large cities to contain the worrying spread of Omicron and prevent the epidemic does not ravage the country as it did last spring.
More than 200,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the country during a fierce epidemic wave that overwhelmed hospitals, crematoriums and cemeteries between April and June.
Health workers have since administered more than 1.4 billion doses of the vaccine, but less than half of the 1.3 billion people have already received two doses, according to government data.
Monday morning, in the capital New Delhi, hundreds of teenagers waited with their parents in front of a school transformed into a medical center for their first vaccination.
“It’s really good to have your first vaccine,” enthused Soumadeep, 16, after inoculating a dose of Covaxin vaccine, made in India, “it’s like a New Year’s gift for children “.
Authorities are concerned about the development of the Omicron variant in the country and the sudden increase in the daily number of infections. As a result, some of India’s largest urban centers started imposing new restrictive measures last week.
“This is concerning – cases are on the rise,” said Pushp Jain, whose son was queuing up for his first dose in Delhi on Monday. “The variant is benign. But obviously, to protect children, we need to get vaccinated.”
New Delhi and the city of technology Bangalore have declared a curfew from 10 p.m., and bars and restaurants have been ordered to halve their capacity. Bombay, the commercial capital of India, has banned public gatherings of more than four people between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. and limited wedding ceremonies to a maximum of 50 guests.
The terrible epidemic wave of last year attributed to the Delta variant struck soon after the Kumbh Mela festival, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, which had drained an estimated 25 million Hindu pilgrims.
These festivities, as well as large electoral rallies organized in several States, had been denounced by the experts.
India is the second most affected country in the world in terms of number of cases, with nearly 35 million confirmed infections. With 481,000 deaths resulting from Covid, the country ranks third among the most bereaved in the world, behind the United States and Brazil. However, according to some studies, India’s actual toll could be up to 10 times higher.
India will start the booster vaccination campaign for people over the age of 60 from next Monday.