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Covid vaccine focus to shift to elderly and ill

Officials urged all healthcare and frontline workers to get themselves vaccinated by the two deadlines

G.S. Mudur   |   New Delhi   |   Published 10.02.21, 01:25 AM

India’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign will turn to the two priority population groups among the general public after the deadline of March 6 for frontline workers, health officials signalled on Tuesday.

The officials did not specify a start date for vaccinations for the two groups — people aged above 50 years and those below 50 with chronic health disorders — but urged all healthcare and frontline workers to get themselves vaccinated by the two deadlines.

“We’re speeding towards vaccinating the main third (priority) group — we are preparing for this. In the coming days, we’ll explain our preparations and processes,” Vinod Paul, the chair of the national expert group on Covid-19 vaccination strategy, said.

The health ministry has not yet specified how potential recipients need to register for the vaccinations and is yet to announce the criteria that would determine who among those below 50 with health disorders are eligible for the vaccines.

The deadlines imply that health authorities would need to vaccinate more than three times as many recipients over the next 25 days as they have over the past 25 days since the start of the vaccination campaign on January 16.

The campaign had till Tuesday vaccinated around 5.6 million of an estimated 9.6 million healthcare workers and under a million of the estimated 20 million frontline workers.

Twelve states, including Delhi, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, have vaccinated less than 40 per cent of their healthcare workers.

The health ministry had on Saturday asked all states to accelerate the pace of vaccinations to complete the first dose for healthcare workers by February 20 and frontline workers by March 6.

Health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said states had been asked to conduct “mop-up” rounds to vaccinate recipients who missed their scheduled dates with February 24 as the deadline for healthcare workers and March 6 for frontline workers.

Beyond those deadlines, Bhushan said, healthcare and frontline workers who miss the vaccinations would be relegated to the age-specific priority groups. That would imply that healthcare and frontline workers below 50 without chronic health

disorders would miss the opportunity to be vaccinated through the government campaign.

Falling fatality rates

India’s Covid-19 case fatality rate has dropped below 1 per cent for two weeks and 15 states, including Bengal, have less than 5,000 active coronavirus patients, the Union health ministry said on Tuesday, releasing fresh data on the shrinking epidemic.

The average number of daily Covid-19 deaths across the country has declined by 55 per cent over the past five weeks from 211 in the week ending January 12 to 96 in the week ending February 9. India recorded 78 deaths on Tuesday.

The case fatality rate — the proportion of the deaths among lab-diagnosed patients — declined to 0.82 per cent over the past week from 0.92 per cent the previous week and 1.07 per cent in the earlier week, according to the data.

Kerala accounts for the largest proportion (45 per cent) of the country’s 143,000 Covid-19 patients, followed by Maharashtra (25 per cent), Karnataka (4 per cent) and Bengal (3 per cent). But Assam, Bengal, Delhi, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh are among 33 states with fewer than 5,000 patients.

Fifteen states had no deaths over the last 24 hours and among the others, only Kerala, Maharashtra and Punjab had deaths in doubled digits on Monday.

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