The move will help India inoculate a large number of people by April and will also address the problem of vaccine wastage that many states are experiencing now.
As the vaccination drive will be open for all above the age of 45 years from April 1, India is set to cross a major milestone in its fight against Covid-19, which is completing a year in March, when the national lockdown was imposed in 2020.
Who are eligible?
Everyone above the age of 45 years is now eligible for vaccination. This includes those with co-morbidities and those who do not have any health issues.
Is there no need for a medical certificate regarding co-morbidities?
As vaccination is open for all above 45 years, there is no need for medical certificates from April 1. The government earlier published a list of comorbidities which included heart issues, hypertension, diabetes, kidney, liver issues, leukaemia among many other conditions.
Why did the government specify health conditions in the second phase only to do away with it now?
The second phase of vaccination commenced on March 1. Senior citizens and people with comorbidities between the age of 45 and 59 were considered as priority groups in this phase. Now as the vaccination has gained pace, based on scientific advice, the government is opening the drive a little. The government started the vaccination drive with the most vulnerable group, healthcare workers and frontline workers. Then it moved to senior citizens and people with co-morbidities, as they are at a greater risk of contracting the infection, because of their age and health conditions, respectively.
Four weeks or eight weeks: What should be the gap?
The two doses of a vaccine were being administered 28 days apart. But now the expert group has reviewed recent scientific evidence and has advised widening the gap to six to eight weeks for Covishield, the vaccine developed by Oxford University and pharma company AstraZeneca and manufactured in India by Pune’s Serum Institute of India.
There has been no review in the advisory for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.
Doctors in the health centre, hospitals where you will get your first dose will advise you regarding the timing of the second dose.
How much will the vaccine cost?
In government facilities, the vaccination will be free while private facilities can charge a maximum of ₹250 for a dose.
Will you still have to register on Co-Win now that the vaccination is being made open?
Yes. Without registration on Co-Win, there will be no vaccination as the government is maintaining every data through this interface.
Will this move help address vaccine wastage? How?
At present, vaccine wastage is a concern for India, as many states are reporting over 10 per cent vaccine wastage. The issue was raised in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent meeting with the heads of the states and Union territories. Vaccines get wasted when the vial is open but the beneficiary does not turn up. If there is enough number of beneficiaries, then this problem might be mitigated. Allowing more people for vaccination is one step to ensure that there are more beneficiaries.