New Delhi: The government on Tuesday announced that from April 1, all people above 45 years of age will be eligible to get COVID-19 vaccines and requested them to get registered for the inoculation.
Briefing reporters on the decisions taken by the Cabinet after its meeting, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said now even people without comorbidities who are more that 45 years of age can get vaccinated. He requested people entitled to get themselves registered to take the jabs.
Javadekar said the Cabinet also decided that the second dose of the vaccine can be taken between four and eight weeks, on the advice of doctors. It was allowed to be taken between four to six weeks earlier, but scientists have now said that taking the second dose between four and eight weeks gives improved results.
The Union cabinet discussed about the vaccination drive which has already achieved speedy and good progress, Javadekar said.
"Today after discussion and on the advice of the task force and scientists, it was decided that from April 1 the vaccine will open for everybody above 45 years of age.
"We request that all eligible people should immediately register from April 1 and get vaccinated, as it is the shield against the disease," Javadekar told reporters.
He said till this day, 4.85 crore vaccines have been administered for COVID-19 and more than 32 lakh people administered the vaccine in last 24 hours.
Another decision taken, on the advice given by scientists and world scientist bodies, was that the second dose of vaccine can be administered between fourth and eighth week, particularly for Covishield, he said.
"Our appeal is that all above 45 years should take vaccine as early as possible, that will provide them the shield against coronavirus and they should register for getting vaccinated," the minister said.
Vaccines are available in enough number and there is no scarcity and the supply chains and supply line is intact, he said, adding that "I am sure everyone will welcome this decision and come forward to get vaccinated."
The minister said he was confident that vaccination will increase at a fast pace.
To a question on cases of COVID-19 rising in some states, he said, the central government is in touch with them and there will be effective management.
"We hope that virus would not be allowed to spread," he asserted.
On 80% cases in Punjab found to have UK variant of the virus, Javadekar said, the virus is coming out in new variants and forms.
That is why getting vaccinated is important as that is the only shield, he said.
"One has to continue using masks and maintaining social distancing and washing hands is also important, but vaccination is the only shield," he noted.
The minister said the vaccine is available in adequate quantities and India takes pride that both its vaccines are successful. The prime minister himself took the Covaxin shot, he added, noting that one can take any of the two vaccines and take the second dose according to doctor's advice.
The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 with healthcare workers getting inoculated and vaccination of the frontline workers started from February 2.
The next phase of COVID-19 vaccination commenced on March 1 for those who are over 60 years of age and for people aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions.