What acts as a bridge to plug the digital gap in rural areas, Common Service Centres (CSC) expected to help village-folk register for vaccines, have mostly been shut.
According to an exclusive report by Indian Express of the roughly 3 lakh CSCs, only 54,460 were active as on May 11.
This comes after the Centre told the Supreme Court that people in the 18-44 age group living in semi-urban and rural areas could make use of CSC to register on the CoWin platform for their shot when questioned on its plan to increase vaccination in rural India.
The report further states that the top five states by number vaccinated — with at least one dose — are Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. In these states, too, the number registered on CoWin through CSCs is a tiny fraction — between a low of 0.02 per cent and a high of 0.1 percent.
Even in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, with a significant semi-urban or rural population, registration at CSCs is a blip: as a share of the total number vaccinated, it’s less than a fraction of 1 per cent.
To address shortage, the Union health ministry has agreed to extend the gap between two doses of Serum Institute of India (SII)’s Covishield to 12-16 weeks, acting on the recommendation by an advisory group on Covid-19 vaccines in India.
There is no change for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin; the two doses of this vaccines are administered four-six weeks apart.
“Based on the available real-life evidences, particularly from the UK, the COVID-19 Working Group agreed for increasing the dosing interval to 12-16 weeks between two doses of COVISHIELD vaccine. No change in interval of COVAXIN vaccine doses was recommended,” a government statement said.
Earlier in the day, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) made a recommendation to increase the interval between two doses of Covishield. The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 — headed by Niti Aayog member VK Paul — accepted this proposal in a meeting.
The gap between two shots of Covishield, or the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India by SII, was increased from four-six weeks to six-eight weeks in April.
Thursday’s development comes in the backdrop of India facing a supply shortage in the middle of a catastrophic second wave.