COVID-19 vaccination phase 2 to begin on 1 March; cost of vaccine at private hospitals to be decided soon

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The Union Health ministry said the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to healthcare and frontline workers has crossed 1.23 crore in the country

The Centre on Wednesday announced that people over 60 years and those above 45 with comorbidities can get COVID-19 vaccine from 1 March even as it cautioned states and Union Territories that any laxity in implementing stringent curbs, especially in view of new virus strain observed in certain countries, could “compound the situation”.

A decision on the next phase of COVID-19 vaccination was taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Private hospitals to administer shots in 2nd phase

“The second phase of the world’s largest vaccination drive will start from Monday in which anybody above 60 years, that may not be less than 10 crore people in the country, and 45 years plus with co-morbidities will be given vaccines in 10,000 government medical facilities and also over 20,000 private hospitals,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar told a media briefing. The second phase of the vaccination will also include armed forces officials, police and vulnerable groups.

Meanwhile, government sources told The Indian Express that about 12,000 private hospitals empanelled under Ayushman Bharat as well as large hospital chains which are not part of the flagship scheme will actively participate in the vaccination drive.

Vaccine cost at private centers to be decided

The vaccine will be offered free at government facilities and for a charge at many private hospitals, it was stated. “Whoever goes to the government centre will be administered vaccine free of cost. Indian government will pay for them. The government will purchase the necessary doses and will send them to all the states,” the Union minister added.

Javadekar said those who want to get vaccination from private hospitals will have to pay, but the amount will be decided by the health ministry within the next three to four days as they are in discussion with manufacturers as well as hospitals. Wipro founder Azim Premji had earlier estimated the vaccine cost at around Rs 800 for a two dose-regime per beneficiary. Urging the government to involve the private sector in large numbers to achieve a coverage of 500 million within 60 days, he had said, “There is a possibility that we can get the Serum Institute to supply vaccines at about Rs 300 per shot. Hospitals and private nursing homes can administer this at a cost of Rs 100 per shot. So with Rs 400 rupees per shot, it is possible to do mass vaccination of the population.”

Asked if people will have a choice of vaccine, Covishield or COVAXIN, Javadekar said India is proud to have two vaccines which are both effective with proven efficacy. While Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield is manufactured by the Serum Institute, COVAXIN is produced by Bharat Biotech.

Javadekar asserted that vaccination in India has been successful, “faultless with hardly any complaints”.

Asked whether ministers and the prime minister, who would be now be in the category of those who can take the vaccination, will get inoculated, Javadekar said those who want to take the jabs can take it at the place of their choosing from 1 March.

List of co-morbidities to be decided soon; Co-Win app at centre of inoculation drive

Javadekar said the population of those above 60 years of age is estimated at over 10 crore. Earlier, the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 had said that the combined population of those over 50 years and those less than 50 years with comorbidities is about 27 crore. A list of co-morbidities that will allow a person to be eligible for inoculation is yet to be released.

A signed medical certificate – attesting to the severity of the illness – will be required of people who are over 45 and looking to get vaccination in the second phase, according to NDTV. Sources said people who come under under the category of those having co-morbidities would have to fill a single-page Yes/No form confirming their medical condition, and then get the form signed by a general physician.

The government had earlier said that it would use a mobile app – CoWin (Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network) – to help the public register for their shots and locate the nearest vaccination centres. The app is currently restricted to “facility level users” or government employees and users. Once the app is available to the public, sources said users must register themselves with details from their Aadhaar card, upload a photo ID and then the signed medical certificate. They can then book a vaccination appointment at a centre of their choice.

Over 1.23 people vaccinated so far

The Union health ministry said the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to healthcare and frontline workers has crossed 1.23 crore in the country. As on 24 February, the vaccination coverage was 1,21,65,598 through 2,54,356 sessions. These include 64,98,300 HCWs (first dose), 13,98,400 HCWs (second dose) and 42,68,898 FLWs (first dose). On day 39 of the vaccination drive, 4,20,046 vaccine doses were given, out of which, 2,79,823 beneficiaries were vaccinated across 9,479 sessions for first dose (HCWs and FLWs) and 1,40,223 HCWs received second dose of vaccine.

The countrywide COVID-19 vaccination drive was rolled out on 16 January. The Centre has committed to buying approximately six crore doses of vaccines from SII and Bharat Biotech, of which a little over 1.5 crore have already been delivered. The vaccines are usable for six months and the first lot will expire in April. It is to be noted that neither of the two vaccines have received market authorisation so far, but have been cleared for restricted emergency use by the Drugs Controller General of India.

The Centre rushed multi-disciplinary teams to nine states and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, most of whom are witnessing a surge to support them in effectively tackling the pandemic. The nine states are Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

With inputs from PTI

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