NEW DELHI — The Indian government began Phase 3 of its vaccine distribution in the country earlier this week, making everyone above the age of 18 years eligible to get vaccinated.
The news follows a sudden, and deadly, increase in the number of cases.
The second wave of the coronavirus has hit India very badly, with the country recording more than 200,000 new daily cases. A new India-grown mutant variant of the coronavirus, also known as the B.1.617 or a double mutant, is now being transmitted among the general public.
In a news release the Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, said the new strain of the coronavirus affects younger people than in the past, where most of the cases involved people above the age of 60 years.
“I think this is a very good decision that has been taken by the government and one that was needed,” said 20-year-old Shinjini Mudgil who has registered for the vaccine.
The central government began registrations for the general public who are eligible to get vaccinated on April 19.
“One thing that people our age need to understand is that getting vaccinated does not mean you cannot get COVID, it is just going to decrease the intensity of the virus so even after getting vaccinated the proper precautions still need to be taken by us,” said Tanisha Gangwal, another 20-year-old awaiting their turn.
Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India, has said that the vaccine will be absolutely free for everyone above the age of 18. The same has been done by the state of Assam.
The third phase of the vaccination drive will also allow private healthcare workers to buy the vaccine in the open markets, and speed up the process of the vaccination drive throughout the country. Individual states will now be able to procure vaccines directly from manufacturers.
This phase will be carried out in a similar manner as the first two phases of the vaccination drive, with a priority being given to residents above the of 45 with health issues. The vaccine will continue to be available at no cost at the government hospitals while a charge of 250 Rupees, about C$4.50, applies if residents get the vaccine administered from private hospitals
“People need to be smart even after getting vaccinated,” said Naisha Bansal, a 21-year-old student awaiting her second dose of the vaccine. “We still need to continue to wear masks and follow the proper protocols if we want the second wave to end as soon as possible.
“Do your part and get vaccinated,” she said.
Indian officials refuted concerns about a shortage of vaccines in the country, despite reports of manufacturers unable to procure the raw materials from the United States.
In the past four days, India has seen a million cases raising the total tally to 15.6 million active cases in the country.
Reuters reported in the past week that oxygen supplies are running low in India and that at least two dozen people died in the city of Nashik because a tanker sprang a leak.
India now faces a coronavirus “storm” overwhelming its health system, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a national address on Tuesday, adding authorities were working with states and private firms to deliver oxygen with speed, Reuters reported.