Covid-19 shots for those above 60 yrs from March 1

Covid-19 vaccinations for those above 60 years, 45-plus with comorbidities from March 1

The vaccine will be given free of cost at government centres

Representative image. Credit: AFP

India is set to launch the world’s most ambitious vaccination programme from March 1 with the Union Cabinet approving the two-dose Covid-19 vaccination plan for 27 crore individuals catering to senior citizens and those over 45 years having serious comorbidities.

“The second phase of the world's largest vaccination drive will start from Monday in which anybody above 60 years, that may not be less than 10 crore people in the country, and 45 years plus with co-morbidities will be given vaccines in 10,000 government medical facilities and also over 20,000 private hospitals,” Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Wednesday after the Cabinet meeting.

Those who would receive the vaccine at government hospitals would get it for free while those taking the shots at private set up will have to pay. The vaccine price and the comorbidity conditions to become eligible would be announced by the Union Health Ministry in the next two to three days.

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Currently two vaccines - Covishield manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, Pune, and the indigenously-made Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad, - are being used. A third vaccine, Russia's Sputnik V, may also be available if the Drugs Controller General of India approves its emergency use application.

“Proactively providing the citizens with the right and authentic information will be the key to the success of this mammoth vaccination drive. Taking lessons from the pulse polio programme and measles-rubella campaigns, there needs to be extensive ground-level preparations,” said Oommen John, a senior public health researcher from the George Institute for Global Health, Delhi.

“Vaccines don't get delivered in a vacuum, health delivery systems need to be geared up to provide seamless coordinated outcomes. The key challenges would be the mechanisms for safety monitoring after immunisation. The AEFI (Adverse Event Following Immunisation) surveillance systems need to be sensitive and responsive.”

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who also briefed the media on other Cabinet decisions, said that most of the ministers were considering paying for the jab.

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Asked whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other ministers like the Health Minister Harsh Vardhan falling into the age bracket, would take the vaccine, Javadekar said those who wanted to take the vaccination would get it at the place of their choosing from March 1.

India began the Covid-19 vaccination on January 16 starting with health care workers and went on to include frontline staff from February 2. So far 1.23 crore individuals received at least one shot of one of the two vaccines.

More than 65 lakh healthcare workers received the first dose while close to 15 lakh got both shots. Among the frontline staff, nearly 44 lakh received the first dose.

Asked if people will have a choice on the vaccine - Covishield or Covaxin - Javadekar said both vaccines were effective with proven efficacy. “The vaccination in India has been successful and faultless with hardly any complaints,” he added.



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