Coronavirus: All aged over 18 can be vaccinated from May
The central government has decided to expand the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination drive to all persons above the age of 18 starting May. Currently, only people above the age of 45 are allowed to be vaccinated for the viral disease. The decision comes as India battles the second wave of COVID-19. India is now reporting more infections than any other country in the world.
The decision to expand the vaccination drive was taken at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier on Monday. In a statement after the meeting, the Union Health Ministry said that India looks forward to "liberalized vaccine pricing and scaling up of vaccine coverage" in what it called Phase III of the vaccination drive.
Apart from allowing all persons above age 18 to get vaccinated from May 1, the Health Ministry highlighted other elements of the third phase of vaccination. Vaccine manufacturers would supply 50% of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory released doses to the Centre and would be free to supply the remaining 50% doses to state governments and in the open market, the Health Ministry said.
Vaccine manufacturers shall declare in advance the price for the 50% supply to be made available to state governments and the open market before May 1. State governments, private hospitals, industrial establishments, etc., can procure doses from manufacturers at these rates. Private vaccination providers shall transparently declare their self-set vaccination price. The eligibility through this channel would be opened up to all adults.
All vaccination would have to follow the existing protocol, i.e., being captured on the CoWIN platform, linked to AEFI (adverse event following immunization) reporting, and other prescribed norms. Stocks and prices per vaccination applicable in all vaccination centers will have to be reported in real-time.
Imported vaccines can be entirely utilized by the "other than the government of India channel," i.e., state governments and the open market. The Centre, from its share, will also allocate doses to states/union territories based on the number of active infections, and performance (pace of vaccination). States/UTs where the wastage of vaccines is less will also be prioritized for this allocation.
The Health Ministry said, "Vaccination shall continue as before in Govt. of India vaccination centers, provided free of cost to the eligible population as defined earlier i.e. Health Care Workers (HCWs), Front Line Workers (FLWs) and all people above 45 years of age." The second doses for existing eligible groups will be given on priority. India had launched its vaccination drive on January 16.