The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC), headed by Niti Aayog member (health) VK Paul and co-chaired by health secretary Rajesh Bhushan, has recommended that the next priority group for vaccination be those aged 50 years and above.
“NEGVAC has also recommended persons above 50 years of age as priority group for vaccination, to be taken up in the next phase,” the government informed the Rajya Sabha in a written reply to a question.
India rolled out its public immunisation drive on January 16 with the inoculation of healthcare workers. It then expanded the drive to include frontline workers on February 2. The second phase of the vaccination was initiated on March 1 and includes senior citizens aged 60 years and above and people with comorbidities between 45 and 59 years of age.
A senior health ministry official said, “This priority group would only come after we have covered a majority of senior citizens and 45-59 years with comorbidity. This could take at least 6-8 weeks to come to the third phase. It could even take longer. But the priority group identified by NEGVAC, 50 years and above would be next.”
There is no time frame given by the government on inclusion of other priority groups.
The government had expected to cover 3 crore beneficiaries – including 1 crore healthcare workers and 2 crore frontline workers – in the first phase of the immunisation drive. However, the numbers registered on the Co-WIN app remain lower than what the government had expected.
Till March 2, 81.59 lakh healthcare workers and 1.01 crore frontline workers have been registered in the initial phase. The government had ordered 6.6 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines from the two manufacturers – Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech – to cover the two priority groups.
Another 10 crore doses have been ordered to cover the beneficiaries of the second phase of the drive.