April 1 marks another milestone in India’s fight against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) with the government expanding the scope of the ongoing vaccination programme by making everyone above 45 years eligible for the jab.
Till March 31, people above 60 years and those above 45 with co-morbidities were eligible for vaccination, along with health care and frontline workers. From Thursday, anyone born before January 1, 1977, can opt for the vaccine, as authorities have removed the clause related to comorbidities (such as heart and kidney ailments, hypertension etc).
Significance of the move
Around 88 percent of the Covid-19 deaths in the country are in the age group of 45 years and above, making the section most vulnerable to the virus, according to Niti Aayog’s Dr VK Paul. Hence, the government said that all those in the bracket needs to be protected and should be vaccinated at the earliest.
The big picture
The move means another big leap forward for the world’s largest vaccination programme. However, it also indicates increased pressure on the infrastructure as the number of beneficiaries are expected to go up sharply.
What are the targets?
At present, India is vaccinating 20 lakh beneficiaries a day. The new target will be to inoculate 50 lakh people a day, which is more than the double. The CoWIN platform, where beneficiaries can register themselves, has been upgraded to accept one crore registrations a day. However, there is no immediate data on the number of people included in the upcoming phase. “What’s more important than the numbers is the strategy of vaccinations — to identify those people who are at the highest risk of mortality. So, the government has taken a conscious call to vaccinate…on priority,” Niti Aayog’s Paul said.
How many registered?
The CoWIN platform will be open for the registration to beneficiaries above 45 years from April 1. Onsite registrations (those at vaccination centres) for the new category will also be allowed from the same day, but only after 3 pm. According to CoWIN chief RS Shamra, beneficiaries will not have to produce any comorbidity certificate, but they will have to carry proof of identity and age. During self-registration too, three basic information will be required: name, age and date of birth.
The government will be targeting a minimum of five million inoculations per day from April 1 when the ambit of the vaccination drive expands. The technology infrastructure of CoWIN has also been upgraded to accept one crore registration load per day: CoWIN chief RS Sharma
Changes in CoWin
Apart from the capacity to manage 10 million registrations a day, there are other upgrades as well.
• The platform has been simplified to encourage more people to opt for online registration — which will help reduce long queues and rush at hospitals (for example, the same OTP will work for registration and login).
• It has removed the feature of auto-scheduling of the second dose of vaccine on the 29th day (after the first dose). Beneficiaries will now have choice of the date of the second dose within four to eight weeks from the first shot.
The journey so far
The vaccination drive in India started on January 16 for one crore healthcare workers. Two crore frontline workers were included in the drive on February 2 in an expansion move. The next phase began on March 1 — for 27 crore people above 60 years and for those aged 45 and above with specified comorbidities. Till Tuesday, over 6.24 crore vaccine doses have been administered, and about 90 lakh people have been fully vaccinated.
81,74,916: Health care workers
89,44,742: Frontline workers
68,72,483: 45+ with co-morbidities
51,88,747: Health care workers
37,11,221: Frontline workers
405: 45+ with co-morbidities