Free COVID-19 vaccine shots for senior citizens from March 1
The second phase of India's coronavirus vaccination drive will begin from March 1, under which vaccine shots will be administered to citizens aged above 60 years, as well as those above 45 but suffering from comorbidities. Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting - Prakash Javadekar - announced the news on Wednesday afternoon. Here are more details on this.
27 crore people expected to be covered
As part of the second phase, vaccine shots will be administered at 10,000 government-run centers and 20,000 private centers. The inoculation will be free of cost at the state-run facilities, while the charges for vaccination at the private centers will be confirmed in a few days, the Centre said. Around 27 crore people are expected to be covered under this phase.
Discussions are on with manufacturers and hospitals, says Javadekar
"Those who want to get vaccinated from private hospitals will have to pay. The amount they would need to pay will be decided by the Health Ministry within three-four days as they are in discussion with the manufacturers and hospitals," said Javadekar.
Certain comorbidities will be given priority
Dr. Suneeta Garg, an adviser to the Indian Council For Medical Research (ICMR), who is also on the Lancet Commission's COVID-19 India Taskforce, said that those suffering from comorbidities like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases will be given priority over people with other diseases. The private sector is also expected to play a major role in the upcoming phase.
1.19 crore vaccinated across India so far
In the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination program, the central government had planned to inoculate around three crore healthcare professionals and frontline medical staffers. However, the latest data tells that only 1.19 crore people have received vaccine doses across India, of which fewer than 15 lakh have been administered the mandatory second shot of the vaccine.
Two vaccines in use, a third is being considered
India has thus far approved two vaccines for emergency use - Covishield, which has been developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, and Bharat Biotech-developed COVAXIN. A third vaccine - Russia's Sputnik V - has also applied for emergency use, a decision on which will be taken by an SEC (Subject Expert Committee) soon.
India currently has around 1.47 lakh active COVID-19 cases
There are currently around 1.47 lakh active COVID-19 cases in India, with over 13,000 new infections reported on Tuesday. Overall, the country has witnessed more than 1.10 crore cases and over 1.5 lakh deaths due to the fatal virus. In recent days, at least five states including the worst-affected Maharashtra and Kerala, have seen a spike in cases amid growing fears over mutated strains.