Covid-19 vaccination drive scaled up in poll-bound states
Administering at least one Covid vaccine dose to the entire eligible population in election-bound states such as Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand is a priority for the government, people familiar with the matter said on Sunday.
Also, the target of a landmark one billion Covid vaccine doses is likely to be achieved by the second week of October, officials from the central government said.
“We are looking at giving at least one shot of the Covid-19 vaccine to all eligible beneficiaries in states that are going to have assembly elections soon. States such as Goa and Himachal Pradesh have already seen 100% first-dose coverage, and then there are states such as Punjab and Uttar Pradesh where assembly elections are to be held next year and we shall ensure at least first dose is given,” said a senior government functionary aware of the development, on condition of anonymity.
Goa and Himachal Pradesh have already administered at least one dose of the vaccine to their entire eligible population.
The Centre has been stressing the need to avoid crowding as far as possible to curb disease transmission; and if there is a need to step out at public places where there is a possibility of having a heavy crowd then it should be done only by those who are fully vaccinated.
“The vaccines that we have are disease modifying, which means we know that vaccines prevent severe disease and death,” said Balram Bhargava, director general, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), during a media briefing on Covid-19 updates recently.
“...mass gatherings should be discouraged, particularly in the upcoming festival season because we still have few districts which are having the problem; and full vaccination should be a pre-requisite if it is absolutely essential or it becomes critical to have a gathering of some people,” he added.
Cumulative Covid vaccine doses administered in the country crossed 800 million on Saturday. The government said 20% of India’s adult population has been fully vaccinated and 62% has got at least one dose.
Of all the vaccines used, around 89% have been the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India under the brand name Covishield. At least 10% have been Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and about 1% the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine.
At least 50% of the beneficiaries have been administered the first dose in Uttar Pradesh. The target is to cover 100% of the eligible population with at least one shot before the polls, a senior official said.
Commenting on the delay in the availability of Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid vaccines in India, the official said changes in the demands of manufacturers from time to time were responsible. “We already have given permission for emergency use and the rest of the formalities are being taken care of,” the official added.
The Centre is also focusing on increasing vaccination coverage at tourist hot spots in the country.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that tourist destinations were prioritised for vaccination during an interaction with health care workers and vaccine beneficiaries in Goa.
He said that states and Union territories such as Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Chandigarh, and Lakshadweep have administered at least one dose of the vaccine to its entire population. He added that Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Kerala, Ladakh, Uttarakhand, and Dadra Nagar Haveli were not far behind.
“India has given a lot of priority to states with potential tourism sector in the vaccination campaign. It is very important that our tourism destinations reopen. Himachal Pradesh and Goa are some examples; everyone has received their first dose already. Tourists can visit these places with a feeling of safety,” said Modi.
Union health secretary, Rajesh Bhushan, also asked 11 states that are reporting a more dangerous type of dengue to take steps to ensure early detection of cases, start fever helplines and stock adequate amount of testing kits, larvicides, and medicines.