India has seen a spike in coronavirus cases over the past few weeks
- Citizens who are 45 or above register for vaccination: Prakash Javadekar
- Decision taken on the advice of the Covid Task Force, Mr Javadekar said
- The vaccination drive started in January this year
People who are 45 and older can be vaccinated from April 1, the government said on Tuesday, ramping up the nationwide inoculation drive at a time Covid cases have surged in many states. "I appeal to every citizen who is 45 or above to register for vaccination," Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said, announcing the cabinet decision to expand the drive that started in January.
At present, only citizens who are above 60 and those over 45 with other illnesses are allowed to get vaccination. A meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to vastly widen its reach to cover much more of the population. Those 45 and above can start registering for vaccination from April 1.
"This decision has been taken by cabinet on the basis of the advice of the coronavirus Task Force and experts," said Mr Javadekar.
He asserted that there was no shortage of vaccines and more were on the way.
According to the minister, 4.85 crore people have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine and 80 lakh have received the second dose.
On the centre's letter to states yesterday to increase the gap between two doses of Serum Institute of India's Covishield - developed by Oxford-Astrazeneca - Mr Javadekar said doctors would prescribe the right time for the second dose.
"The second dose has to be between four to eight weeks. Doctors will decide when it is best to take the second shot," the Union Minister said.
India has seen a spike in coronavirus cases over the past few weeks, with the daily rise staying above 30,000 since March 18. The number of cases with the UK, South Africa and Brazil variants of the Covid virus across the country is 795.
Though new coronavirus infections dropped by 13 per cent to 40,715 on Tuesday, the active caseload has recorded an increase for the 13th day in a row, according to the Union health ministry.
Vaccinations rolled out with two vaccines - Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin -- on January 16 with healthcare workers. Frontline workers were declared eligible for the shots February 2 onwards.
Mr Javadekar was asked about Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's appeal to the centre to widen the scope of vaccinations to younger people, given the spike in cases of the UK variant in his state.
The Union Minister said he was "not a health expert and did not know the nuances of the UK variant".
Punjab has reported that 81 per cent of its new cases are those of the UK variant, an extremely virulent strain that is mostly affecting younger people. UK authorities have found that the Covishield vaccine is effective against it, Amarinder Singh said.