Following the announcement, over 34 crore people in all are estimated to be eligible for vaccinations (AFP pho...Read More
NEW DELHI: In a move to expand coverage of the vaccination programme and step up the fight against a resurgence of Covid-19 infections, the government on Tuesday announced that anyone above 45 years of age, without any requirement to show comorbidities, can get the shots from April 1.
Following the announcement, over 34 crore people in all are estimated to be eligible for vaccinations. At present, people above 60 and those in the 45-60 age group with specified co-morbidities, can take the jab.
The decision to expand the age eligibility comes at a time when calls for faster rollout of the shots are rising. Even though the pace of vaccinations has been accelerating, the rollout has been uneven with states reporting unfulfilled capacities and below-expectation participation of private sector hospitals.
Till 7 pm on Tuesday, 2.1 crore people above 60 years and 45.6 lakh people between 45 to 60 years with specified comorbidities have received the first dose of the vaccine. In all, India administered over 5 crore vaccine doses, including those to healthcare and frontline workers, with 4.2 crore people receiving the first dose.
It was felt that allowing more people to take the shots would increase the pool of people willing to receive the vaccines and this would more optimally utilise the capacities of some 50,000 government and private hospitals enrolled on the Co-Win portal. It was found that several private hospitals were sporadically scheduling the shots or not at all. The expanded eligibility could increase demand and incentivise hospitals and states to create more sessions.
The cut-off date for the above 45 years category is those born before January 1, 1977. The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday based on recommendations from the National Expert Group for Vaccination Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) which suggested expanding the priority age group for receiving vaccination.
“I urge all above the age of 45 to register and get themselves vaccinated from April 1. There are enough vaccines available and there should not be any concern on this,” Union minister Prakash Javadekar said after the meeting. The registration on Co-Win as well as on-site for the new recipients will begin from April 1.
Official sources said Co-Win has a capacity to register 50 lakh people per day, whereas it is currently registering less than 10 lakh. The capacity can be further scaled up to register one crore people per day. In Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, health minister Harsh Vardhan said there were enough vaccine supplies to meet the sessions scheduled by states.
“There is no shortage of vaccines in the country. People should not unnecessarily panic. The government has a well-oiled system that regularly monitors total vaccine allocation, total consumption and balance of vaccine, and need for replenishment,” the health ministry said.
In a letter to chief secretaries of states and UTs, health secretary Rajesh Bhushan clarified that there will be no need for a co-morbidity certificate for people aged 45 years to 59 years from April 1. He said the Co-Win software was being modified to do away with the need for confirmation of co-morbidities at the time of online registration and on-site registration or for uploading the co-morbidity certificate at the time of vaccination.
While people have been facing issues with scheduling appointments and even non-receipt of certificates upon vaccination, the health ministry issued key messages asking people to lodge complaints in such cases.
“Upon vaccination, you must insist on receiving a hard copy or a digital copy/link of your vaccination certificate. In private hospitals, this has been included in the fee charged from you. You may use your observation period of 30 minutes to ensure that you get the certificate. Do not return home without it. If the hospital does not provide a certificate, the beneficiary may lodge a complaint at toll-free number 1075,” it said.