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India trying to save vaccines by delaying jabs of covid patients: Govt panel head

Under fire for his handling of the world’s worst rise in coronavirus infections, Narendra Modi-led central government made all adults eligible for vaccination from May 1.
Reuters | , New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 24, 2021 02:22 AM IST
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan holds a dose of Bharat Biotech's Covid-19 vaccine called COVAXIN, during a vaccination campaign at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) hospital in New Delhi.(Reuters)

India is trying to save scarce Covid-19 vaccines by delaying shots for those who have recovered from the disease, the head of a government panel said, adding the campaign should not have been opened to all adults before covering the most vulnerable.

Under fire for his handling of the world’s worst rise in coronavirus infections, Narendra Modi-led central government made all adults eligible for vaccination from May 1.

Vaccine shortages have now forced many regions, including the capital New Delhi, to again prioritise those aged above 45.

On May 19, the Centre changed its earlier recommendation for vaccination of recovered patients from one to three months.

“It’s been done to save vaccine doses,” Narendra Kumar Arora, head of the government’s National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, told Reuters on Friday. “We discussed delaying it by three months, six months or nine months, but finally we said ‘we can manage it with three months, let’s do three months for now’“.

Arora added that given the vaccine shortage in India, the focus should have been on immunising the most at risk. “Our group prioritised those aged 45 or more,” he said. “Because 75% of the mortality and morbidity is in that age group.”

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The ministry and Modi’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

So far, India has administered about 195,004,184 doses of vaccine against coronavirus disease, the most after China and the United States.

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