Vaccination drive against Covid-19 is set to be ramped up, targeting a larger population group of around 26 crore
people above 50 years soon as India is ready to face the tail-end of the pandemic, the government said underlining swift progress in controlling spread of the infection along with an enlarged immunisation drive.
“Now, we are in a phase where we feel reassured, we feel safe and we can confidently say that we can face the rest of the problem, the tail-end of the problem effectively in times to come,” NITI Aayog Member (Health) Dr V K Paul said. He urged remaining health and front-line workers not to miss their schedule, saying the drive will move at a very fast pace in the coming weeks with an aim to cover larger age-appropriate population and build herd immunity through vaccination.
Paul said a slew of promising vaccines are in different stages of and are likely to secure emergency use authorisation over the next few months, increasing availability of vaccines. While the current national public health priority is to make health and front-line workers secure and reduce mortality by innoculating the vulnerable (over 50 and those younger but with serious co-morbidities) population, “other options” would be considered as the
progressed. The hint was possibly at making vaccines available for private purchase.
The vaccine candidates include Russia’s Sputnik V – for which Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy’s Labs is doing clinical trials in India and many Indian companies are partnering Russia for local manufacturing.
“First and foremost, the comprehensive goal is to achieve the public health objective of vaccinating 30 crore people. That is where the vaccine stockpile will be channelled on priority,” he said, indicating that it might take some time to make vaccines available for sale in private market. Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said procurement of vaccines is an ongoing process, which is eviewed on basis of stocks and expiry dates of the shots.
“Protecting large populations from mortality, should they get Covid-19, is the priority,” Paul added.
A total of 65.2 lakh healthcare and front-line workers received the vaccines against Covid-19 till Tuesday evening, while more than 1.3 lakh sessions were organised across the country. The total active caseload of Covid-19 also dropped to 1.43 lakh on Tuesday.
While 12 states have vaccinated 65% or more of their healthcare workers, there are 11 states that are yet to pick up pace with less than 40% coverage. States that have done well in vaccinating healthcare workers include Bihar at 78.1%, Tripura (77.1%) and Madhya Pradesh (76%).
Among states with poor coverage are Delhi, Punjab,
“We have told states to ensure that all healthcare workers get at least one dose by February 20, and then they can hold mop-up rounds till February 24. After that, HCWs will be relegated to the age-appropriate groups, and will have to wait for their turn,” Bhushan said.
“Front-line workers should have got one dose by March 1, and mop-up rounds can happen till March 6. After that, they too will have to wait for their turn by age,” he added.