New Delhi, Delhi, India:
Recently the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its MOMENTUM Routine Immunization Transformation and Equity project, organized a collaborative virtual event “Expanding Coverage of COVID-19 vaccination for 12-14 year olds,” bringing together key stakeholders to discuss current COVID-19 vaccination progress for young adolescents and the urgent need to expand coverage in the wake of rising positive cases across the country.In India, the USAID’s MOMENTUM Routine Immunization Transformation and Equity project is supporting the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW)’s nation-wide vaccine deployment efforts, including improving vaccine availability and demand. Through the project, USAID is increasing COVID-19 vaccination uptake among the most vulnerable and marginalized population by engaging influential leaders and groups, such as women’s and health professional associations.
COVID-19 vaccination for 12-14 year olds in India commenced on March 16, 2022. Vaccine uptake among this population has been slow, primarily due to vaccine hesitancy and misinformation about its possible side-effects and availability.
At a webinar hosted to spread awareness, stakeholders discussed the need to vaccinate children against COVID-19. The session highlighted the importance of building public confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines, particularly in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases. Recognizing the importance of being able to influence the shape of public discussion of vaccine issues, speakers urged the government to step up communications campaigns on the efficacy and availability of the vaccine, and to promote vaccination of children and adolescents.
At the event, Vijay Paulraj, Senior Health Systems Strengthening Advisor for USAID, discussed the dynamic nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and challenges with rolling out vaccines, highlighting the collaborative and multi-sectoral approach needed to address these challenges. By bringing together government, private sector, and civil society stakeholders, USAID is increasing vaccine coverage through improved access. Specifically, USAID’s MOMENTUM Routine Immunization Transformation and Equity project is bringing vaccines closer to communities by utilizing mobile vans (“Vaccines on Wheels”) and increasing vaccinations in schools. This support builds on USAID’s strong support for India’s COVID-19 response and vaccination program, which in late April surpassed the milestone of reaching 100 million people in India since the outset of the pandemic.
Dr. Sanjay Kapur, Managing Director, John Snow India said, “Increasing vaccination coverage among children aged 12–14 years, is extremely critical to reduce COVID-19–associated burden. With cases of COVID-19 on a steep rise again, there is an urgent need to step up public engagement and communication to build confidence and uptake of the Corbevax, the vaccine prescribed by the Centre for children and adolescents. Moreover, it will be essential to provide people who are hesitant, or otherwise unmotivated with respect to the COVID-19 vaccines with the resources, information, and support they need to make the vaccination decision that is right for them.”
On the engagement of schools, Dr. Varinder Bhatia, Vice Chairman and Secretary, Punjab School Education Board highlighted the vital role the schools and parent’s associations can play in influencing vaccine decision making.
Dr Naveen Thacker from the International Pediatric Association shared that building trust in vaccines will help in addressing the queries of parents.
MOMENTUM Routine Immunization Transformation and Equity Project, supported by USAID, has mandated John Snow Research & Training Institute (JSI) to provide technical assistance to National and State Governments to ramp up COVID-19 Vaccination in India. John Snow India Pvt Ltd, an affiliate of JSI US is working in close collaboration with the Government of India to strengthen their outreach and delivery efforts with communities for vaccination; and through partnerships with local NGOs to increase demand, distribution and uptake of COVID-19 vaccination, particularly for vulnerable and marginalized populations across selected 18 states of India.
About the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
USAID is the U.S. Government’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID works to help lift lives, build communities, and advance democracy. USAID’s work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity; demonstrates American generosity; and helps countries progress along their development journey. In India, USAID is collaborating with the country’s growing human and financial resources through partnerships that catalyze innovation and entrepreneurship to solve critical local and global development challenges. To learn more, visit www.usaid.gov/india