Health workers administer Covid-19 vaccine dose to senior citizens at a school-turned-vaccination centre in Thane on July 7. (PTI)
Health workers administer Covid-19 vaccine dose to senior citizens at a school-turned-vaccination centre in Thane on July 7. (PTI)

Concerns rise as 46% of senior citizens yet to get first vaccine dose

Experts say those over 60 are at a higher risk of developing severe disease due to Covid-19 and also death.
By Anonna Dutt, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 31, 2021 04:40 AM IST

The slow pace of Covid-19 vaccines coverage among Indians over the age of 60 years is becoming a cause for concern, experts warned as more than 46% of the population group most vulnerable to the disease are yet to receive even a single shot.

Till 7pm on Friday, a total of over 460 million doses had been administered across the country, with over 5.1 million jabs being given on Friday alone, to over 356 million people. Of these, 256 million people have been partially vaccinated, while more than 100 million people have received both shots of the vaccine.

However, it is coverage among the elderly that is a cause for concern, according to experts.

Till Friday morning (latest data released by the health ministry), just over 74.6 million people above the age of 60 had received a Covid-19 shot (39 million partially vaccinated, 35.6 million fully). This translates to around 54% of the 138 million people in this age group in the country, as per the population projection for 2021 based on the 2011 Census.

Experts say those over 60 are at a higher risk of developing severe disease due to Covid-19 and also death. When the first wave of the pandemic had struck, 80% of the deaths happened among those over the age of 50 years, NITI Aayog member (health) Dr VK Paul had said while explaining the process of identification of the vulnerable groups for the second phase of the vaccination drive.

“With the limited number of vaccines available, it is really important to prioritise who gets it. First, there is a need to cover the gap between the number of people who have received the first dose and those who have received the second. This is because the efficacy of just one dose of Covishield is only about 30% against the Delta variant,” said Dr Suneela Garg, professor in the department of community medicine at Maulana Azad Medical College in Delhi.

She said there is the need to prioritise the vaccine for pregnant women who could develop complications if they get the disease and also those who travel by public transport or interact with a lot of people in a day, like shopkeepers.

“Those who have had the infection can wait. The government policy currently says they can wait for three months, but they can wait up to eight because they have protection against a second infection,” said Dr Garg who is a member of the Lancet Commission Covid-19 India Task Force. It has been set up by Lancet journal to independently monitor Covid-related interventions and give suggestions.

The vaccine coverage seems to be better when it comes to healthcare workers and frontline workers.

According to the data, over 10.2 million first doses have been administered to healthcare workers so far, which is higher than the government’s own estimate of there being about 10 million such workers in the country in total at the start of the vaccine programme. Over 75% of them have also received the second dose.

As for the frontline workers, 89.5% of the estimated 20 million have received one jab and nearly 62% of them have received their second jab as well.

The immunisation drive is likely pick up pace over the next three months, with more vaccine doses becoming available. There would be 150 to 180 million doses available in August, 200 million in September, and 300 million by October as HT reported on Thursday. In comparison, 120 million doses were administered across India until July 29.

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