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Vaccination for general public likely to begin in March 2nd half, says minister

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India began the drive with health care workers on January 16, and from the first week of February, shots are now being given to front line services staff such as police and firefighters.

By Rhythma Kaul, New Delhi

PUBLISHED ON FEB 06, 2021 04:01 AM IST

Coronavirus vaccinations for the first of recipients from the general public is likely to begin any time in the second half of March, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan told parliament on Friday, confirming a timeline to widen the drive that has till now led to over 5 million inoculations.

This phase will involve people above the age of 50, who are deemed to be at a greater risk of severity if they catch the Sars-Cov-2. India began the drive with health care workers on January 16, and from the first week of February, shots are now being given to front line services staff such as police and firefighters.

“In the first phase, the target was to vaccinate about ten million health care workers both in the public and private sector, which is progressing quite fast. In the second phase, an estimated 20 million frontline workers were to be vaccinated, and that has also begun this week on February 2 at many places in the country. After completion of the first and second phase, the third phase will begin wherein everyone above 50 will be vaccinated. It may not be possible to provide an exact date but it is likely that the process will begin anytime in the second, third or fourth week of March,” said Harsh Vardhan.

The minister said the government “has sufficient doses” for the on-going phase and existing cold storage facilities under Universal Immunization Programme have been strengthened and are being used for storing vaccines. As on February 1, more than 20 million vaccine doses have been provided to all States and UTs.

Hospitalizations related to adverse event following immunisation is also one of the lowest in India, the minister said. So far, 27 people have been hospitalized due to adverse reaction related to Covid-19 vaccination, taking the percentage to a miniscule 0.0005%.

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