What we know about the first opening up of India’s Covid-19 vaccination drive


The Union health ministry on Wednesday announced a significant opening up of the country’s vaccination drive, with the roll-out for the general public being moved up from the previously estimated window of mid-March to March 1.

The government also said that vaccines could be purchased by eligible people at private hospitals. The development comes at a time when the country appears to be on the brink of a second wave of infections. While the government is still working on the granular details of the opening up, a look at what we know about the opening up of vaccinations, and what we don’t.

Starting March 1, who will be eligible for vaccinations?

Anyone above the age of 60 years, or above the age of 45 with existing illnesses that make them more vulnerable to Covid-19, will be allowed to sign up to receive coronavirus vaccines from March 1. Currently, only health care workers and frontline workers are being administered vaccine shots.

What are the comorbid conditions for those between 45 and 60 years that make them eligible for vaccination?

The government is yet to officially release an exhaustive list of comorbidities that would make people above 45 years of age be eligible for shots. However, officials familiar with the development say diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, or a history of conditions such as heart, lung, liver or/and kidney disorders or strokes are likely to be included.

What will be the protocol for verification comorbidities for people under 45?

Any eligible beneficiary will need to produce a certificate duly attested by a registered medical practitioner about the comorbidity (or comorbidities) they have at the vaccination site (hospital).

How will beneficiary verification happen?

Beneficiaries will be verified through one of the 12 government-approved identification (ID) cards, and cross-checking the information with electoral rolls. The approved IDs are: Aadhaar number, driving licence, health insurance smart card issued under the ministry of labour scheme, MGNREGA job card, voter ID card, official identity card issued to MPs/MLAs/MLCs, PAN card, passbook issued by bank/post office, passport, pension document, service identity card issued to employees by central/state govt/PSUs/public limited companies, and smart card issued by the Registrar General of India under the National Population Register.

What will be the cost of vaccination at a government hospital?

Vaccination will be provided free of cost across all government hospitals in the country.

What will be the cost of vaccination in a private hospital?

The government has said that vaccinations at private hospitals will not be free of cost, however, it is yet to disclose publicly what the cost will be.

Will the rate be capped by the government at private hospitals?

The cost of each dose at private hospitals is likely to be capped at around 400 per shot, according to some people familiar with the developments, but no formal announcement has yet been made by the government yet.

Will Co-WIN be the only platform for signing up?

While the Co-WIN app will remain the key logistical tool behind the vaccination drive, more options are likely to be included to augment the coordination needs for a drive of this size.

What other platform/websites are being considered?

Aarogya Setu, which was launched last year as a digital contact tracing tool, and other Covid-19 related apps approved by the government, will have the option of self-registering by citizens who are eligible. Gradually, a web portal is likely to be opened up for vaccine registration.

I think I am eligible; how and when can I register myself?

Details about the registration process and timings are not out yet, and the government is likely to announce the exact procedure in the next few days.

Will walk-ins be allowed at govt or private hospitals, or will there be appointment slots?

Walk-ins will be allowed for people who are already registered with the system, the officials cited about said.

Will people be given a choice if they prefer one shot over the other?

There is no clarity on this yet from the government. There are so far two vaccine approved by India’s drug regulator — Covishield, developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and manufactured by Serum Institute of India (SII), and Covaxin, developed and manufactured by Bharat Biotech. Health care officials and frontline workers, who were given free shots, did not get to choose.

How will the vaccine be sourced for private hospitals?

There is no clarity on whether the government will procure vaccines for private hospitals, or will it allow them to purchase directly from the manufacturers.

Which private hospitals will be made centres?

Apart from the 2,000 private hospitals already vaccinating across the country, close to 12,000 hospitals empanelled under the Ayuhsman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (AB-PMJAY) and Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) will also be roped in the initial phase.

What about the second dose?

Those who receive the first dose can download a QR-code based certificate through the mobile app, as well as awareness material about vaccines and vaccine-related statistics from across the country.


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