India began its coronavirus vaccination drive on January 16 (File)
People can choose when to receive the second dose of the Covishield coronavirus vaccine - experts say this should be between six to eight weeks after the first - the Health Ministry said Tuesday evening, hours after the government said all those over 45 would be eligible for vaccination from April 1.
As the country faces an alarming surge in fresh Covid cases - driven in part by laxity in following protocols and the spread of the more contagious mutant strains - the Health Ministry also urged people to stay calm and stressed that there is no shortage of vaccine stocks.
The ministry also released a note about the vaccination drive, in which questions about the optimal period between the two doses and the process of scheduling appointments were answered.
What is the recommended time interval between the required two doses?
The time interval between two doses of the Covishield vaccine has been extended from four-six weeks to four-eight weeks. Within the extended period, protection from the novel coronavirus will be greater if the second dose is taken between six and eight weeks after the first.
It is advisable not to delay beyond the eighth week, as it may leave the beneficiary vulnerable.
The second dose of Covaxin will continue to be auto-scheduled for the 29th day after the first.
How can I register for the second dose?
Newly eligible beneficiaries can register and book an appointment through the CoWIN (Covid Vaccine Intelligence Work) portal or the Arogya Setu app. Their slots will go live from April 1.
Both new beneficiaries and those who have already received their first dose can now choose when to get the second dose. The auto-scheduling feature for the Covishield vaccine has been removed.
This means all beneficiaries - even those who had earlier been automatically given appointments for the second dose - can decide on a date and time of their convenience by visiting www.cowin.gov.in.
Who can get vaccinated in this phase?
Starting April 1, everybody over the age of 45 is eligible to be vaccinated. The cut-off date has been set as January 1, 1977, meaning you must be born before this date to get the vaccine in this phase.
In the first phase only healthcare staff and frontline workers were eligible. The second phase included people over the age of 60 and those over 45 but with co-morbidities. For the third phase the government has removed the co-morbidities clause to make the process simpler.
What happens after I get the vaccine?
After getting the vaccine (whether the first or second dose), you must ensure you get your Vaccination Certificate; this can be either a hard copy or a digital copy.
Vaccination and the certificate are free in government hospitals. Vaccination in private hospitals is capped at Rs 250, and this includes the cost of the certificate.
Do not leave the vaccination centre without the certificate. If you are not given one you can lodge a complaint at 1075, which is a toll-free number.
Are there enough vaccines for everybody?
There are two vaccines currently in use in India - Covishield and Covaxin. The government has stressed that there is no need to panic - there is no shortage of vaccine stock.