The Cowin platform is allowing anyone who turns 18 by the end of this year to register for Covid vaccination, a provision that many students who are yet to turn 18 are availing themselves of to get the jab.
Many of these students have plans to study abroad and are worried that international travel may not be allowed if they are not fully vaccinated. Colleges abroad, too, could refuse to admit them if they cannot produce vaccination certificates. The students did not want to wait till their 18th birthday to get vaccinated because that could be too late for them to take admission in a college of their choice. Other students, too, have plans to study in colleges in other Indian cities. They are also apprehending difficulties in admission if they are not vaccinated.
Though the general understanding is that people in the age group 18-44 have become eligible for vaccination from May 1, in reality those who are a few months away from turning 18 would be committing no offence by taking the vaccine, said an official of the state e-governance mission team (SeMT), which also handles Co-Win platform for Bengal. “The Centre has officially communicated that anyone born up to December 31, 2003 is eligible for vaccination this year. Someone born in January 2004 will not be eligible for vaccination,” said the official.
The students also said that since many young adults got severe Covid-19 in the second wave, they do not want to risk themselves by delaying their vaccination.
“The university expects us to get vaccinated if we have a provision for it. I will turn 18 this month but I got vaccinated last month because I will not be eligible for the second dose before 12 weeks. I am scheduled to leave in September and I want to take the vaccine by August so that I am safe with all requirements,” said Yash Kejriwal, who is planning to go to the University of California San Diego.
Students planning to go to other Indian cities are also using the provision.
A student from the outgoing Class XII batch said that the fear of the virus is also driving them to get vaccinated. “The app does not require us to enter our date of birth but only the year and so I got it after consulting a doctor. There are so many instances of young people getting infected and getting critical so why shouldn’t we use all means to keep ourselves protected,” she said.
Manish Dalmia got his daughter who will be 18 in October vaccinated last month.
“The app allows it and so, I got my daughter registered and then vaccinated. This is the only protection we have now,” said Dalmia. “My father had turned critical and was in hospital for almost two months and I don’t want to take chances with others now.”
South Point school has organised a vaccination camp for staff and a section of parents. They have also opened the facility for the outgoing Class XII batch. The students who could register on CoWin — 120 of them — can get themselves vaccinated.
“Students continue to remain vulnerable since they have to appear in competitive exams as well go to various colleges and institutions for the admissions. This is a protection,” said Krishna Damani, a trustee of South Point.
Doctors and immunologists felt that taking the jab a few months before one turns 18 is unlikely to have any adverse effects because of age.
“I do not think someone who is a few months left to be 18 would develop any complications for their age if they take the Covid vaccines being administered in India. Attainment of physical adulthood often comes much earlier than when someone turns 18,” said Dipyaman Ganguly, an immunologist with the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology.
Paediatrician Apurba Ghosh, too, said administering the dose to someone who is 17 would not cause any problem.
“Younger people have less adverse reactions after taking a vaccine. They can tolerate a vaccine better than people who are older. There would be no problem if someone who is 17 takes the vaccine,” said Ghosh, the director of the Institute of Child Health. He added that paediatric age is considered to be up to 18.