In a major move, India on Tuesday decided to open the vaccination drive for everyone above the age of 45 years starting from April 1. Union minister Prakash Javadekar announced that there will be no need for medical certificates supporting co-morbidity conditions, as the government had stipulated earlier for the second phase of vaccination.
The decision has been taken based on scientific advice, the minister said adding that the gap between Covishield doses has also been extended up to eight weeks, from its earlier four weeks, as this is more effective in building immunity.
India's vaccination drive entered the second phase from March 1 as senior citizens and people above the age of 45 years with co-morbidities were made eligible to receive the vaccine shots. For people between the age group of 45 and 59, medical certificates in proof of their health conditions were mandatory. But as the Centre is aiming to speed up the pace of the vaccination in the face of an alarming rise in the number of daily Covid-19 infections, now anyone above the age of 45 can get vaccinated, the Cabinet decided on Tuesday.
In the past few weeks, several states have urged the Centre to open vaccination for all. Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday requested the Centre to include people younger than 60 years of age under the vaccination drive.
"Vaccination is going on well and at a fast pace. Around 4.85 crore people have already got vaccinated. Many of them have got their second doses too. 32.5 lakh doses were administered yesterday in 24 hours. In February, our daily average was 3.77 lakh, it surpassed 15 lakh in March," the minister said.
"Would urge everyone above 45 years to get themselves registered and inoculated," the minister said adding that adequate doses of vaccines are available at present in India. "We are proud that India's both vaccines are successful. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself took Covaxin. So you can take any vaccine. And take a doctor's advice regarding the gap between the two doses," Javadekar said.
The vaccine is the only shield against Covid-19, the minister said, adding, "We will have to continue using masks for another one year and a half. Similarly, we will have to wash hands, maintain social distancing. Only vaccination is the shield."