India on Thursday launched the third phase of the coronavirus vaccination drive for people aged above 45 in its biggest push yet against a surging coronavirus that has hit the highest daily count since early October.
The world’s second-most populous country aims to immunise 400 million people after expanding the programme, which had been restricted to the over-60s and people with serious health conditions.
Seeking to exponentially expand the countrywide anti-coronavirus inoculation drive, the central government has decided to keep all public and private sector COVID-19 Vaccination Centres (CVCs) operational throughout April, including on gazetted holidays.
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The centre wrote to all states and union territories on Thursday and asked them to make necessary arrangements for this, the Union Health Ministry said.
“This step has been taken after detailed deliberations with the states and UTs on March 31 to optimally utilise all COVID-19 Vaccination Centres across the public and private sectors to ensure rapid increase in the pace and coverage of COVID vaccination.
“This decision is in line with the graded and pro-active approach employed by the government of India along with the states and UTs for COVID-19 vaccination,” the ministry said.
The vaccination exercise continues to be regularly reviewed and monitored at the highest level, it highlighted.
A countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 with healthcare workers (HCWs) getting inoculated first, and vaccination of frontline workers (FLWs) started from February 2.
The next phase of COVID-19 vaccination commenced on March 1 to cover people above 60 and those in the age group of 45-59 but with specified co-morbid conditions.
India has also shipped millions of doses of the vaccine to neighbouring countries and then across the world as part of a diplomatic initiative to win friends.
Data released by the health ministry on Thursday showed 72,330 new COVID-19 infections, the highest since October 11. Deaths stand at 162,927.
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