Shots will be given for free at government facilities and for a charge at private hospitals.
People above 60 years of age and those over 45 with comorbidities would be given COVID-19 vaccination from March 1, the Union government announced on Wednesday.
After a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said that under the second phase of vaccination, shots would be given at 10,000 government-run centres (free of cost) and 20,000 private centres. Charges for vaccination at privately-run centres would be confirmed in a few days.
“The Health Ministry is in discussion with manufacturers and hospitals to determine the cost of vaccination to be made available in private sector,” said Mr. Javadekar. The Centre would buy doses and send them to all States for the government medical facilities.
Around 27 crore people were expected to be covered in the second phase. Of this group, around 10 crore are over 60 years, Mr. Javadekar said.
A senior health official told The Hindu that with the expansion of the vaccination coverage, the government would bring in sub-groups to ensure that the most vulnerable were covered first. Also detailed listing of the comorbidities and pre-vaccination requirements would be issued and strict surveillance and monitoring of those vaccinated would be done as part of the protocol.
At the media conference, when asked whether Ministers and the Prime Minister, who would now be in the category of those who can take the vaccination, would get innoculated, Mr. Javadekar said those who wanted to take the vaccination would take it at the place of their choosing from March 1. Vaccination in India had been successful, “faultless with hardly any complaints”, he claimed.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who also briefed the media on the Cabinet decisions, said most of the Ministers were of the thinking that they would pay to get vaccinated.
The first phase
The first phase of vaccination started on January 16 and so far the cumulative number of doses administered to healthcare and front line workers crossed 1.23 crore on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said.
“A total of 1,23,66,633 vaccine doses have been given through 2,63,224 sessions, as per the provisional report till 6 p.m. today. These include 65,24,726 health care workers (HCWs) who have taken the 1st dose and 14,81,754 HCWs who have taken the 2nd dose, along with 43,60,153 front line workers FLWs (1st dose). Vaccination of the FLWs started from 2nd Feb 2021,’’ said a Ministry release.
A total of 2,01,035 doses were given till 6 p.m. on Wednesday, the 40th day of nationwide vaccination. Out of this, 1,17,681 were given the 1st dose and 83,354 HCWs received the 2nd dose, as per the provisional report. Sessions numbering 8,868 were held till 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
Vaccines in use
India has approved two vaccines for emergency use – Covishield (developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India) and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. On Wednesday Russia’s Sputnik V applied for emergency use. It has an efficacy rate of 91.6 per cent.
Reacting to the government announcement, Max Health Care said, “We welcome this decision by the government to open its phase 2 for vaccinating masses [people above 60 years and 45 years with co-morbidities] against the COVID-19 virus, from March 1st. It is a positive move to include the private sector and we are keen to participate. We await clarity from the government on how to take this forward in terms of required manpower and centres. We have the capability to ramp up our operations to provide coverage to a large spread of population.”