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Next phase of vaccination: 60-plus first, free shots not for all

The next phase of vaccination against Covid-19 — of about 27 crore beneficiaries of ages 50 years and older — will have two groups: those who will get the vaccine for free, and those who will have to pay, The Indian Express has learnt.

The vaccination of this group will begin early next month — and those above the age of 60 will be prioritised.

The government has also decided that in the second phase of inoculation, beneficiaries can choose to get their shots in a state different from the one to which they belong according to the electoral roll, senior officials said.

“There will be two pre-defined groups (in the next phase of the exercise). The government will define which group will get the doses (of vaccine) for free. Beneficiaries will know whether they are eligible for free vaccination while registering,” a top government source said.

“Final details on who will get the vaccine for free and who will have to bear the expenses on their own will be shared soon,” the source said.

In the first phase of vaccination that began on January 16, the Centre picked up the entire tab for inoculating the priority groups of healthcare workers and frontline workers.

The next phase of vaccination will begin in the “first week of March”, officials said. “The priority group will be 50 years and above; within that group, there will be a priority of 60 years and above. They will register first,” they said.

Sources said the information given by beneficiaries while self-registering in the next phase, will be checked against data from the electoral roll and Aadhaar.

“We have built two back-end means on Co-win. The beneficiary will download the Co-win app and register; the back-end will fetch the data from two sources: Aadhaar and electoral roll. Only after the data match will it upload any further information. Once it proceeds further, Co-win will display vaccination centres and geo-coordinates. After the beneficiary chooses a site, they will get the option to choose a date,” sources said.

The second phase will be the largest phase of the vaccination drive. More than 60 consignee points across the country will deliver the vaccine to any site within a day, officials said. “The distance between the vaccination centres and the consignee point is within 60-70 km. We are in a convenient position to deliver the doses, even with 24 hours’ notice,” a source said.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has written to states to increase the pace of vaccination, and to carry out the exercise on at least four days every week.

“In view of the anticipated high number of beneficiaries to be vaccinated at a high speed in the forthcoming days, the states and UTs are advised to ensure that all the public health facilities from tertiary level medical colleges, Hospitals, and Institutes to District Hospitals, Sub-divisional Hospitals, Community Health Centres, PHCs, Health and Wellness Centres, Health Sub-Centres should be prepared for offering COVID-19 vaccination services on all designated vaccination days, beginning from 1 March 2021,” Bhushan has written.

He has added that all public health facilities that are being mapped to cold chain points, are finalised by the states.

Sources said that the Centre has also communicated to states not to store buffer stock, and administer the first dose on priority. “We have enough buffer for the priority groups. In fact, the states were storing doses proportionate to the first dose. We have communicated to the states not to store. We have enough buffer in the four GMSDs (government medical store depots) of the Centre,” sources said.


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