Third phase of COVID-19 vaccination in India begins

The Health authorities of Telangana on Thursday began administering Covid19 vaccine to those above 45 years. (Photo credit: IANS)

After a sudden rise in the number of covid cases, the government on March 23 had issued new guidelines in order to speed up the vaccination process.

Various States have started administering the COVID-19 vaccine to people over the age of 45 years as India enters the third phase of the world’s largest vaccination drive today.

With all the people above the age of 45 years allowed to get vaccinated from today, the third phase of India’s vaccination drive against COVID-19 begins. (Video courtesy: India Today)

With the second wave of COVID-19 leading to a rise in the number of cases across the country, the government on March 23 had announced that any person above the age of 45 years could get vaccinated from April 1.

Any person above the age of 45 years is allowed to register and book an appointment for vaccination, anytime and anywhere, using the Co-WIN platform, or the Aarogya Setu app. Citizens can also visit their nearest vaccination centre after 3 p.m. and get on-site registration done. The vaccine is available free-of-cost at government hospitals and for up to Rs 250 per dose at private centres.

A total of 5.6 crore citizens have been administered at least one dose of either of the two vaccines so far. Yet, India has 5.8 lakh active covid cases. Yesterday, the government released data that showed eight States – Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Punjab, and Madhya Pradesh – that have contributed to 84.73 percent of the new cases in the country.

Therefore, the government is focussing on getting more and more people vaccinated and hence, has allowed people above the age of 45, who have reported the most number of cases so far, to get vaccinated.

Taking cognisance of the rapidly increasing number of cases, the Ministry of Home Affairs on March 23 had released a new set of guidelines which instructed the States and Union Territories to strictly enforce the Test-Track-Treat protocol, containment measures, COVID-Appropriate behavior, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on various activities. The guidelines are to be followed from April 1 to April 30. The ministry said that RT-PCR tests should account for up to 70 percent of the tests done to detect COVID-19.

While the Indian government has been making efforts to increase vaccination in the country, it has also been exporting COVID-19 vaccines to its neighbours. In fact, the number of doses exported is twice the number of those used at home. Junior health and family minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha on March 16 provided the data on the number of doses exported till then. He said that India had exported over 5.84 crore doses of indigenous Covid-19 vaccines to 70 countries while only 3.48 crore jabs had been administered at home since the vaccination drive began on January 16 this year.

With such a major gap between the number of doses being used at home and those being exported, it could be difficult to control the rising number of cases in the country. Wastage of doses at some places is another major issue that needs to be solved.

India’s overall case load stands at 1.2 crore which puts it at the third spot behind the US and Brazil in terms of the countries that have been most affected by the virus.

By Nihit Sachdeva