The Union Cabinet, on Tuesday, gave green signal to vaccine for all citizens over the age of 45 from April 1, 2021. So far, besides healthcare and frontline workers, only those above 60 and those over 45 with specific co-morbid conditions were eligible for vaccine jabs.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar announced that there will be no need for medical certificates supporting co-morbid conditions, as the government had stipulated earlier for the second phase of vaccination.
While announcing the major move, Javadekar also informed that the country has enough vaccines and appealed to all eligible people to get themselves registered to get inoculated with the coronavirus vaccines.
“We have enough vaccines. All eligible people should get registered as it is a shield against COVID-19. We appeal all above 45+ should get vaccinated,” Javadekar said while addressing a press conference.
The government’s decision to expand the vaccination drive comes at a time when India is witnessing a resurgence in coronavirus infections.
According to the minister, the vaccination drive is “continuing at a rapid pace” in India and till now 4.85 crore people have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine and 80 lakh have received the second dose.
In wake of the rising COVID-19 cases, a couple of state governments had appealed to the Centre to widen the ambit of the immunisation drive.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh and their Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal had appealed to the Union health ministry to relax the eligibility criteria.
While addressing the press conference, Javadekar also added that scientists have found that the second dose of the Covishield vaccine can be take up to eight weeks after the first dose, as opposed to the initial recommendation of up to six weeks.
The revision was based on the assessment of National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) and subsequently approved by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for covid-19 (NEGVAC), the Centre said.
Adding that the vaccine is the only shield against covid-19, the minister urged everyone to wear a mask and maintain social distancing.