Amid Covid surge, third vaccination round rolls out today for key group

This round of vaccination, two and a half months after the country began its Covid-19 vaccination drive, will make the largest age cohort eligible so far for phase-wise administration of the vaccine.

Amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in several parts of the country where the total active caseload has climbed to 5.52 lakh cases, the third phase of vaccination will be rolled out Wednesday, making every person above the age of 45 eligible for a vaccine shot.

This round of vaccination, two and a half months after the country began its Covid-19 vaccination drive, will make the largest age cohort eligible so far for phase-wise administration of the vaccine.

It will cover the population which is at the highest risk: 90 per cent of Covid deaths in India have been in the category of those above the age of 45.

Of the total active caseload of 5.52 lakh cases, five states — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab and Chhattisgarh — cumulatively account for 79.30 per cent of the cases. Maharashtra leads with more than 61 per cent of the active caseload.

On Wednesday, Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary, and Dr R S Sharma, Chairperson, Empowered Group on Covid Vaccination, chaired a high-level meeting with state health secretaries and mission directors of the National Health Mission on the preparedness for the third phase, directing the states to identify low vaccine coverage, particularly in districts witnessing a Covid surge.

The direction came a day after Bhushan communicated to all Chief Secretaries to achieve 100 per cent vaccination coverage of those above the age of 45 in the next two weeks.

“All districts with high caseload and fast growth of cases must ensure 100 per cent saturation vaccination of the priority age group of 45 years and above, in the coming two weeks. Any complacency at this stage, at any level, will have heavy costs,” Bhushan told the states.

At the meeting Wednesday, it was underlined that states have to maintain vaccine wastage at less than 1 per cent, as against the present national average of 6 per cent.

The senior officials, specifically, gave three directions to the states on vaccine stocks: ensure no sedimentation of vaccine stocks at any level of storage; ensure distribution based on consumption with the aim to avoid overstocking and under-stocking at Cold Chain Points and CVCs; and undertake regular reviews of vaccine stocks and consumption to identify gap areas and address the same.

On Tuesday, the Health Ministry had highlighted that only 16.53 per cent of the doses have been administered in the private sector, and urged the states to increase private sector participation in the vaccination drive.

On Wednesday, three specific directions were given to the states relating to the involvement of Covid-19 vaccination centres in the private sector: conduct regular reviews of vaccination at private CVCs with respect to their capacity utilisation; undertake Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis of CVCs to identify the need for additional CVCs within states; and address apprehensions of private CVCs regarding vaccine supply proactively.

India began the Covid-19 vaccination drive on January 16. In the first 75 days of vaccination, 6,43,58,765 doses were administered. These included 82,47,288 Health Care Workers who took the first dose and 52,38,705 HCWs who took the second dose; 91,34,627 Front Line Workers (first dose), 39,23,172 FLWs (second dose); 300,39,599 first-dose beneficiaries and 86,869 second-dose beneficiaries more than 60 years old; and 76,74,934 first-dose beneficiaries and 13,571 second-dose beneficiaries aged 45 and above with specific comorbidities.

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