The second phase of the coronavirus vaccination drive will begin March 1, with priority given to people over 60 and those over 45 with co-morbidities, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said Wednesday afternoon, adding that details of what counted as a comorbidity will be released by the Health Ministry.
The shots will be given at 10,000 government-run centres (where it will be free of cost) and 20,000 private centres. Charges for vaccination at privately-run centres will be confirmed in a few days.
"From March 1, people above 60 years of age and those above 45 years of age with comorbidities will be vaccinated at 10,000 government and over 20,000 private vaccination centres. The vaccine will be given free of cost at government centres," Mr Javadekar said.
"Those who want to get vaccinated from private hospitals will have to pay. The amount they would need to pay will be decided by the Health Ministry within three-four days as they are in discussion with the manufacturers and hospitals," he added.
Around 27 crore people are expected to be covered in the second phase. Of this group around 10 crore are people over 60, the government said.
Last month sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be vaccinated in the second phase, as will all Chief Ministers, MPs and MLAs above 50.
Dr Suneela Garg, an advisor to the ICMR, told NDTV yesterday that as the vaccination drive expands to include the larger population, there will be segregation based on several criteria, and that each sub-group will have separate timelines.
Dr Garg, who is also on the Lancet Commission's Covid-19 India Taskforce, said those with comorbidities like "diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases" will be prioritised above people with other diseases.
She also said that the private sector will play a major in the drive.
In the first phase, which began January 16, the centre targeted the vaccination of around three crore healthcare staff and frontline workers. However, as of this morning only around 1.21 crore people have been vaccinated. Of these, around 14 lakh have received the mandatory second shot.
India has so far approved two vaccines for emergency use - Covishield (developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and manufactured by the Serum Institute) and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.
A third - Russia's Sputnik V - has also applied for emergency use and this will be considered by a SEC (subject expert committee) today. Sputnik V has an efficacy rate of 91.6 per cent, which is higher than Covishield's 70 per cent. Covaxin's efficacy has not yet been confirmed.
There are 1.47 lakh active Covid cases in India as of this morning, with 13,742 new cases reported in the past 24 hours. Maharashtra and Kerala are worst-affected, with over 50,000 active cases in each.
The centre has sent high-level teams to 10 states that have seen a surge in cases, warning that slacking off on rules will escalate the crisis given the emergence of new virus strains.