Covid vaccination gives priority to health and frontline workers, most vulnerable groups: Govt

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New Delhi, Jul 1 (PTI) The Covid vaccination programme gives priority to strengthening the country's healthcare system by protecting health and frontline workers as well as the most vulnerable groups, the government said on Thursday and dismissed media reports alleging that the inoculation strategy is 'neglecting' the elderly and vulnerable and 'privileges the rich'.

The Union health ministry in a statement said that the national vaccination programme is built on scientific and epidemiological evidence, World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and global best practices. It is anchored in systematic end-to-end planning and is implemented through effective and efficient participation of states, Union Territories (UTs) and people at large, it said and added that the government's commitment towards the programme has been unwavering and proactive from the beginning.

There have been some media reports alleging that the country's vaccine strategy is 'neglecting the older and vulnerable population' and further claiming that the policy 'privileges the rich', the statement said. 'It is clarified that the COVID-19 vaccination programme, which is based on scientific and epidemiological evidence, gives priority to strengthening the country's healthcare system by protecting the professionals, health and frontline workers manning it as well as protecting the most vulnerable population groups,' the ministry said.

'This approach has yielded positive results by achieving more than 87.4 per cent first dose coverage among registered healthcare workers (HCWs) and around 90.8 per cent coverage of first dose among registered frontline workers (FLWs), thereby protecting this cohort which is involved in providing healthcare services, surveillance and containment activities amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,' it said.

Till now, the inoculation drive has covered 45.1 per cent of the over 45 years of age population with first dose of vaccination, the ministry said.

It said that with a large cohort to cater to in the age group of 60 years and above and those aged 45-59 years with comorbidities, over 49.35 per cent of those above 60 years have been covered with single dose of Covid vaccine.

Under the revised vaccination policy, implemented on June 21, to incentivise production by vaccine manufacturers and encourage new vaccines, domestic manufacturers have been given the option to provide vaccines directly to private hospitals. This has been restricted to 25 per cent of their monthly production, the statement said. Citizens irrespective of their income status are entitled to free vaccination by the government of India and those who have the ability to pay are encouraged to use private hospitals' vaccination centres, it said.

Keeping in view equitable distribution among large and small private hospitals and regional balance, states and UTs aggregate the demand of private hospitals and share it with the Centre, the statement said.

Private hospitals can charge a maximum of Rs 150 a dose of a vaccine as service charges, it said.

Under the spirit of 'Lok Kalyan', people are also being encouraged to financially support vaccination of economically weaker sections at private Covid vaccination centres (CVCs) for which non-transferable electronic vouchers are in the pipeline, the ministry said.

It said under vaccination drive, guidelines have been shared for community-based, flexible and people-centric approach.

To help the elderly and differently-abled citizens, 'Near to Home COVID Vaccination Centres' (NHCVC) have also been started, the statement said.

The government of India is cognisant of the need for facilitating vaccination for all, especially vulnerable groups who may not possess any of the prescribed identity cards, it said.

These group comprise nomads, including seers from various religions, prison inmates, inmates of mental health institutions, those in old age homes, roadside dwellers, beggars, people residing in rehabilitation centres or camps and any other identified eligible persons, aged 18 years or more, the statement said. The district task force identifies such groups of persons in respective districts with assistance from government departments and organisations like departments of minority affairs, social justice and social welfare among others, it said.

Inter-district or inter-state mapping of workplace CVCs and private CVCs too is being encouraged to further improve outreach. Employees above 18 years of age can also get their dependents vaccinated by tagging them with the already existing CVCs for workplace vaccination, the statement said. PTI PLB ANB ANB

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