'Prioritise beneficiaries of second dose': Centre to states amid vaccine shortage

Express News Service
NEW DELHI: Amid a massive Covid vaccine shortage that has slowed the pace of immunisation against coronavirus across the country, the Centre has now asked the states to prioritise the beneficiaries of the second dose and ensure that the recommended vaccination schedule is maintained.

The Centre has also asked states to utilize supplies of vaccines through the central quota in 70:30 ratio for the second dose and first dose respectively.

The directive comes amid concerns in most states that the recommended vaccination schedule for a large number of beneficiaries is getting hampered due to inadequate supplies.

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As per the government guidelines, the recommended gap between two doses of Covaxin is 4-6 weeks and for Covishield the suggested interval is 4-8 weeks.

Under the new liberalised and decentralised vaccination policy since May 1, all the supplies sent out can be used only for people above 45 years while beneficiaries in the 18–44-year age group can get jabs accessed by states and private hospitals separately.

There are anecdotal reports that many in the 45 plus age group, who have taken their first shots, are struggling to secure vaccination slots on the government’s portal as there is no preference given to them over those who are to get the first shots.

It is in this context that the fresh directive by the Centre comes. It has also asked states to carry out a regular review of coverage of vaccination drive to formulate and implement the strategy for such prioritization.

An effective communication strategy must be implemented for full two-dose protection to all priority beneficiary groups, the states have also been instructed.

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As per the figure shared by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, a total of 16.50 crore doses have been administered in the country so far of which 13.21 crore are the first doses while 3.29 crore are the second doses.

Till Friday morning, 11.81 lakh people in the 18–44-year age group had received their first jabs but it is all mostly through corporate hospitals or state quota.

The Centre on Friday said that while the government has already provided more than 17.35 crore doses to the states for free so far, more than 90 lakh doses are still available with them.

In addition, around 10 lakh doses are set to reach states within 3 days. Many states have said that their vaccination programme is crawling owing to supply issues even though there is a great rush for inoculations.