Covid-19 in India: Next phase of vaccine drive kick-starts today
The second phase of India’s vaccination drive against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) will begin on Monday, with the Union health ministry saying that those eligible for immunisation can register and book appointments from 9am to 3pm on March 1, as the country ramps up its battle against the infectious disease almost a year after the first cluster of cases in Delhi.
From Monday, people eligible for the next phase can walk up to a vaccination centre to be registered for a dose. The decision will allow anyone above the age of 60 and those older than 45 but with comorbidities that make them more vulnerable to Covid-19 to approach government and private hospitals for shots. While the doses will be administered for free at government facilities, private hospitals can charge up to ₹250 per dose.
“A lot of hard work has gone into reaching this phase wherein the government is beginning to vaccinate the general population. The vaccines are absolutely safe to use and are in use not just in India but in other countries as well,” said Union health minister Harsh Vardhan.
A statement by the Union health ministry said: “There will be only one live appointment for a beneficiary at any point of time for each dose… Appointments for any date for a COVID Vaccination Center will be closed at 3pm on that day for which the slots were opened.”
For example, for March 1, the slots will be open from 9am till 3pm and the appointments can be booked anytime before then, subject to availability. However, on March 1, an appointment can also be booked for any future date for which vaccination slots are available. The registration will take place on the upgraded Co-WIN platform and also on other government-approved mobile-based applications.
“The next phase of the world’s largest vaccination drive for the age appropriate population groups will commence from 1st March 2021 (Monday). Registration will open at 9.00am on 1st March 2021 (at www.cowin.gov.in). Citizens will be able to register and book an appointment for vaccination, anytime and anywhere, using the COWIN 2.0 portal or through other IT applications such as Arogya Setu etc,” the official statement said.
The immunisation drive across the country was halted for Saturday and Sunday to move to the new Co-WIN platform that will allow the self-registration of recipients.
According to the health ministry’s Co-WIN guidelines issued on Sunday, one person will be able to register only three more eligible people using their mobile number. “With one mobile number, a person can register as many as four beneficiaries. However, all those registered on one mobile number will have nothing in common except the mobile number. The id card number for each such beneficiary must be different. A mobile number cannot be used for making more than four registrations. If one out of the four beneficiaries registered in an account is vaccinated, only three registrations are left, and so on,” said the guidelines.
An appointment can also be booked for any future date for which vaccination slots are available. A slot for the second dose will also be booked at the same vaccination centre on 29th day of the date of the appointment of the first dose. If a beneficiary cancels the first-dose appointment, then the appointment of both doses will be cancelled, as per the guidelines.
The nationwide vaccination drive was launched on January 16, with the government focusing on immunising 30 million health care and frontline workers in the first leg. In the second phase, it plans to vaccinate about 270 million people who are over the age of 60 or are aged at least 45 years and have comorbid conditions.
Those with any of the 20 specified comorbidities will have to produce a medical certificate attested by a registered medical practitioner at the time of vaccination at the chosen vaccine centre. The conditions include congenital heart disease that leads to pulmonary arterial hypertension, end-stage kidney disease, or cancers such as lymphoma, leukaemia and myloma, decompensated liver cirrhosis (deterioration of liver function due to scarring), primary immune deficiency conditions, and sickle cell anaemia.
“Detailed guidelines have been issued by the government after thorough deliberations by the experts to guide common people through the process. I urge all eligible persons, especially those with comorbidities, to take the shot. It is for their own good as there is still a large section of population susceptible to catching the infection,” said Dr VK Paul, member (health), Niti Aayog.
The Capital reported its first case on March 2, when a 45-year-old who travelled from Italy tested positive. “The past one year has been really tough but our scientists and medical fraternity has risen to the occasion and has ensured that we do not lose too many lives to this pandemic. At about 1.4%, India’s death rate has remained lower than the global average throughout,” the Union health minister told HT.
The Delhi health department said on Sunday that the next phase of vaccination in the Capital will begin from Monday. The drive will be carried out at 192 hospitals in the national capital, including 136 private hospitals and 56 government hospitals. Vaccination will be done six days a week at these centres.
“Appointment for vaccination can be booked online prior registration and appointment based on available slots on COWIN portal,” the health department said. Delhi reported 197 fresh Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, taking the cumulative count of cases in Delhi to 639,289.
The central government will procure vaccines and supply them free of cost to the states and Union Territories, who in turn will disburse them to government and private vaccination centres. The vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin are currently approved in India – will be available for free at government hospitals and at a capped price of ₹250 per dose at private hospitals. The cost will comprise ₹150 for the vaccine shot and ₹100 as operational charges.
The vaccine type available at a vaccination centre, however, will not be displayed to citizens at the time of online registration. “A Covid vaccination centre shall usually have only one type of vaccine throughout the vaccination drive. This is necessary to avoid mixing of vaccine types in 1st and 2nd dose of a beneficiary,” said the government’s guidelines.
Experts said it was imperative to open more vaccination centres for the process to pick up pace.
“If we need to achieve our target, we need to have vaccination in more and more places; we have to open it up in a manner that those who are willing to take the vaccine are allowed to come rather than calling people and them not turning up,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
“People in the high-risk group residing in regions seeing a spurt in infections should be immunised quickly as it will help in decreasing the mortality and hospitalisations,” he added.
Since the drive began last month, over 14 million doses have been administered across the country. But the coverage has been lower than expected, with only 48 people turning up on average for every 100 people expected for each session, according to government data.